Child Rights Essay Competition

“Education for Children of the Developing World: A Chance at a New Beginning” by Mehreen Pasha

2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 1st Place, Group 2 (Grades 9-12)

Mehreen Pasha – Cheshire, CT / Choate Rosemary Hall

Mehreen PashaIt is difficult to fathom that the insightful words of Harper Lee or Charles Dickens will never be cherished by the average teenager in the infamous abyss that is the Developing World. These countries have reached an impasse on the road to economic stability and overall success as a nation. The source of these issues is not simply poverty or child labor, but rather what is perpetuating both of these issues: a lack of proper education. Whether it is the absence of school facilities themselves or the notion that women do not have the right to receive proper schooling, a lack of education is what has plagued the youth growing up in countries like India and Pakistan for generations. As Americans who sought the American Dream, it is our responsibility to help the next generation in third world countries achieve their dream. While it may not be possible to change the mentality that limits women’s educational pursuits, constructing schools and enabling children to sit and learn in a classroom is the first step.

First and foremost, it is essential to understand that a lack of education is what is throwing a slew of promising youth into the vicious cycle of child labor and poverty. Most families face the same dilemma: obtaining basic necessities is a day-to-day struggle. Oftentimes, the parents of such families were not able to attend schools themselves. Impoverished families often resort to “selling” their children to large companies that rely on manual labor, with little pay in return. It is no surprise that over 57 million children worldwide are not receiving primary education (, with 70% of Pakistan’s out-of-school children never having seen the inside of a classroom ( As these out of school children grow up, they lack the proper knowledge and skills needed to obtain steady jobs, causing them to resume laborious tasks for the rest of their lives. This will only thrust the cycle of poverty, child labor, and lack of education upon the next generation. A shortage of educated people being put in the workforce will result in less teachers, doctors, and other professionals needed in high demand by any functioning society. In addition, while the absence of schools is a major issue, the preexisting schools face challenges themselves, with inadequate books, supplies, and teachers. Schools are often left unprotected, jeopardizing the lives of those who simply seek to learn. It is only with the resolution of this education crisis, by building new schools and providing proper resources to preexisting ones, that third world countries can eradicate child labor and poverty.

One may be asking, where will these new schools come from? If one charity is responsible for producing hundreds of schools, this goal is quite daunting. Starting a government program in which towns across America can join in the effort to educate third world children is the most efficient way to tackle this issue. Essentially, every participating town can establish a fund in which residents raise money over the course of a year. Once at least thirty thousand dollars are raised, which, according to buildOn, is enough to establish one school, a local high school can create a club that will deal with the construction of that school. High schoolers and town residents will have the opportunity to build on site and meet the local children being benefited. The town’s elementary and middle schools can even engage in a pen pal program with the students of the new school. By fostering a connection between America’s youth and the children of developing countries, students of America will be more inclined to assist with education, health, and basic human rights in the future. Later on, people can send packages to students containing the necessary school supplies to support them for an entire year. Lastly, in order to encourage the participation of towns, it is vital that an incentive is put in place, such as an increase in funds for public schools in these towns. Overall, if each town in America pledges to fund one school or even one library, there would be tens of thousands of new schools being established in impoverished countries worldwide.

This program will leave a positive mark on both the children of third world countries and average Americans. Children in some of the poorest nations in the world will get a second chance at life: an education. This will, in turn, begin to dismantle the cycle of poverty. In addition, more schools will equate to a higher demand for teachers, thus generating jobs and benefiting the economy. The positive effects of this initiative, however, span farther than the borders of the Developing World. It is evident that towns who participate in the program will receive extra funding for public school systems. In addition, high schoolers will gain valuable leadership experience and be exposed to the many issues around the world that they will one day be responsible to resolve. Colleges and workplaces value young men and women who assume leadership positions for causes that they are passionate about, and this program is the ideal outlet. Additionally, the elementary and middle school children who will engage in the pen pal program will get a glimpse at the lives of children their age thousands of miles away, serving as an enriching experience for them to gain transcultural exposure.

Every child, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, or race should be entitled to an education. Without giving the children of third world countries the chance at an education, we, as leaders on the world stage, have failed. By initiating a program in which towns across America can join in the effort to educate the children of the Developing World, the future generations will aspire to make something of themselves. As eloquently stated by Malala, the Pakistani women’s education activist, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” Let us give these children the tools they need to be the next Malala and change the world.

Works Cited

Desk, Web. “‘One Child, One Teacher, One Book and One Pen Can Change the World'” The Express Tribune . The Express Tribune News Network, 12 July 2013. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.

“Education and Schools.” UNICEF USA . UNICEF, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

“Home.” BuildOn . BuildOn, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

“Stand with Malala.” UNICEF USA . UNICEF, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

“10 Alarming Statistics about Pakistan’s Out-of-school Children.” . Dawn, 21 Oct. 2014. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

“Three Major Problems Children Face: Lack of Access to Education, Child Labor, and Child Hunger” by Rehan Kabir

2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 1st Place, Group 1 (Grades 5-8)

Rehan Kabir – Gaithersburg, MD / Clearspring Elementary School

Rehan KabirAs a 10-year-old child living in a prosperous country as the USA, it is hard to imagine that there are millions of children who don’t have access to education, or who have to labor all day, or have no food to eat. Unfortunately, it is true, and there are many children like that in Africa and Asia. I believe we need to help them one way or another.

Lack of access to education is a major problem for children, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. According to the UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 58 million children between the ages of six and 11 still don’t have any access to education, while 63 million adolescents are also out of school [1]. Education is crucial to productivity. Children need to explore various aspects of their lives. Only by learning they will be productive and have a good life. We can solve this problem by building more schools, and taking care of other related problems such as child labor and hunger, which I will discuss later. I have access to education; I go to school every day and learn many things; I am very fortunate to have access to good education. As a child, I don’t know how to solve the problem of education, but I believe that all children should have access to education no matter what, and our world leaders should work for it.

Child labor is another major problem in the world. Children had been slaves and servants all throughout our history. However, children became widely used as laborers during the Industrial Revolution. The main reasons were: their size allowed them to move in spaces adults could not, children could also be disciplined and managed more easily than adults, and they were made to work for long hours, for very low wages, in dangerous factory conditions [2]. Some child labors are not even allowed to have education. The problem of child labor still exists today. It is possible that the clothes I am wearing now were made by child laborers. I have not thought of a way to solve the problem, but to at least make the situation better, child laborers should get free education. Being a laborer is bad enough; not having education on top of that is the worst. They need to learn things other than laboring to have a good life, as I said before. I do not do child laboring myself because my parents provide for me. I have to do some chores sometimes, but other than that, I don’t do any laboring. No child should have to do any laboring.

Lastly, there is child hunger. In 2010, an estimated 7.6 million children (more than 20,000 a day) died. Poor nutrition plays a role in more than three-fourths of the deaths [3]. Almost one in every fifteen children in developing countries dies before the age of five because of starvation. Every fifteen seconds, a child is dying of hunger [4]. To solve this problem, we must donate more to the hungry. There are many organizations to help hungry people. You should join one and you will find yourself making and collecting food and donating it to other countries. It is very helpful because the more we give the more lives are being saved. In my family, we have a sufficient amount of food and my mom is a great cook. So I have a great meal every day. I wish it was the same for everyone.

As I have explained, lack of access to education, child labor, and child hunger are major problems. The current efforts we do are not enough, so we must do more to solve them. I really hope that one day the children who are suffering now will become like me and have enough to live a good happy life.

[1] Petrozio, Matt. Millions of World’s Children Still Lack Access to Education. February 3, 2015 (based UNESCO report). (accessed on September 13, 2015)
[2] Child Labor. (accessed on September 13, 2015)
[3] 11 Facts About World Hunger. (accessed on September 13, 2015)
[4] Alexander, Ruth. Does a child die of hunger every 10 seconds? (accessed on September 13, 2015)

“An Eye-Opening Summer” by Adiba Mobin

2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 1st Place, Group 3 (College/University Students)

Adiba Mobin – Austin, TX / University of Texas, Austin

Adiba MobinAs I spent my summer as a volunteer in DCI’s Healthcare for Underprivileged Program in the Kallyanpur slums, I had not anticipated it to be one of the most eye opening experiences I had ever been a part of. Going into my internship with DCI, I was well aware of the nature and extremity of the environment I was about to become immersed in, but I was nowhere near ready for the emotional impact it would have on me. Every new day I was more and more excited when I would come into the clinic as I continued to witness the incredible dedication that the staff put into each and every single patient that came through the door. Coming in from a first world country, I had my preconceived notions of what the healthcare system was even capable of in third world countries such as Bangladesh. I was truly astonished to see the high level of quality health care being provided there, along with the respect and value each patient was given.

Despite the challenging geographics of the area, paired with the arduous demographic being treated, the HUP clinic was aiding the residents of the Kallyanpur Slum in overcoming their adversities . As the HUP clinic would turn away no one in need, they turned a blind eye to these adversities, thus restoring a level of humanity to the inhabitants; they were actually being treated as human beings there, as fellow Bengalis, and not refused treatment based solely on their financial standings. The care for these patients was not just of a one visit period, but was entirely holistic, starting from the initial diagnosis of the doctors, to the persevering social workers of the clinic, who made it their duty to then follow up with patients in their own homes, and it wouldn’t even end there. DCI was genuinely interested in the wellbeing of everyone who came to them for help.

Aside from the daily workings of the clinic, I was also attending bimonthly information seminars led by the HUP doctors and social workers, who worked with groups of both adolescent girls and also expecting mothers, while they instill knowledge into the attendees. While at first I thought that all of the information that was being presented in these seminars was just common knowledge , I momentarily put myself into the shoes of one the girls or the mothers, and realized that this common knowledge that I have taken for granted by being brought up in a first world country, is actually not common knowledge in this third world slum, and then I truly realized the deep value of these seminars, as these attendees would most probably not receive this type of vital information elsewhere ranging from healthy hygiene and sanitation habits to all of the steps of prenatal and antenatal care. Unfortunately so, it is nothing but the truth that due to the need to be able to sustain families in the Kallyanpur slums, that the need to educate children from a young age is completely overshadowed. The mentality in the slums is that if you are physically capable of earning a wage to feed your family, that trumps any serious need to receive even a basic level of education. Many nonprofit organizations such as DCI have set up many clinics in countries similar to Bangladesh, to not only provide health care but to be able to provide basic education with regards to taking care of your body. Again, the awareness these organizations raise on basic concepts such as healthy hygiene habits, healthy sanitation habits, safe intercourse practice, and more, while these may be ideas we often take for granted these concepts are very, very important to teach to those who have no access to a basic education, or even for those who are unable to read and write as a result of never having received a basic education. Of course, it can always be easy to just hand your patients a pamphlet on a generic health topic and expect them to answer any questions a patient may have, but now let’s consider the fact that the patient is illiterate and also very poor and cannot afford even the simplest of health care…now what do you do? This is where in-person verbal seminars play a very important role in the effort to raise health care awareness, through a verbal exchange of ideas and discussions. This is exactly what I had witnessed in the HUP clinic as well, which allows me to put a greater trust and confidence in the true mission of organizations such as DCI; when they enact simple programs such as verbal discussions with the teens or adolescent girls of a poor, slum community, it is now ensured that every demographic is being taken care of even just being considered. I know for a fact that Bangladesh is not the only country to face issues and adversities such as these, but change starts at the root level with simple ideas and just the heart to help those who really need it. I am extremely proud to have volunteered at DCI’s HUP clinic, as I feel they are doing a tremendous job at aiding the people of our motherland.

“A Better Future” by Ifeanyi Okeke

2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 2rd Place, Group 1 (Grades 5-8)

Ifeanyi Okeke – Nkpor, Nigeria / Winners International School

Ifeanyi OkekeSadly from the womb to the grave, female children fall victim to violence. In some countries and cultures before birth, tests are made to determine whether a fetus is male or female. Females are often aborted. When they finally make it to the world, they are offered stressful circumstance that they battle all their lives. They are denied education, common respect, forced into early marriage, raped, ignored, publicly disgraced, cohabited, forced into remarriage in event of her partner’s death to someone she would never have loved to. The lists are listless. Sometimes I ask to know whether they are still part of the world of ours. With the effect that children may suffer isolation, inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities and limited ability to care for themselves and their children. But why? This essay seeks to answer this question and more like its causes, effect on children and preventive steps to be adopted as a recommendation to stop this ill-treatment.

There are many reasons given by people especially the men for abusing and acting violently against girls. Some said they are second class citizens whose only job is to procreate and serve the children and the men as long as they live. Men are better used in everything than their female counterparts. They see them as people who should not be given right. They are mere creature that should never ever gain the same acceptance with men. While men do this as long as they live and produce their own children, the male children grow to learn this from their parents. It has never been shun nor given a due attention. While some suffer, female children are also affected, and as they grow and develop, they still practice these as in the case of males and for the females, they lick their wounds knowing that their own mother had been a modern slave in the very hands of their father.

Female children are at the receiving end of violence in the home. Because they are still developing, they are always disturbed and ask questions about what the future holds for them. They may also get symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, for example have nightmares and flashbacks, and be easily startled. Boys learn from their fathers to be violent to girls and girls learn from their mothers that violence is to be expected, and something you just have to put up with. They often grow up feeling anxious and depressed, and find it difficult to get on with other people.

There is hope for these ones today. They still have a voice and future for themselves. The assumption that all practices that harm girls, no matter how deeply they are embedded in culture, must be eradicated and that must start from home. Cultural ideologies – both in industrialized and developing countries – provide ‘legitimacy’ for violence against them in certain circumstances. Government must speak with one voice on these treaties that obliged them not only to protect children from crimes of violence, but also to investigate violations when they occur and to bring the perpetrators to justice. School teachers should detail out children rights to the hearing of their male counterparts and assign them visible roles that will place them in a position to claim their rights and to protect their fellow girls. In local areas, children should be empowered. Without economic independence, children have no power to escape from an abusive relationship.

With the above suggestion, girls will soon breathe fresh air of liberty now that this issue is being revisited. My opinion and that of many others will count. When they are thoroughly respected, our ailing society will be transformed. Well in our own little way, we can contribute at least by talking to the government. They have ears. We can do something more than talking. It calls for personal dedication to the course and choice of making the earth a theatre of happiness and hope for our generation and those coming behind. It comes out of you and me and how we live our lives. We make the world a better place not by advocating some new public enterprise but through our devotion and love and patience and kindness to the people around us. We make the world a better place one minute and one person at a time. Without kindness in our lives, our world can quickly turn cold, empty and negative. Kindness gives us hope, it connects us to each other and it reminds us of the beauty that lives in each of us. I believe that here in Nigeria, we can help give girls voice as we do to boys. We will translate this human right to the best interest of all. We should show them respect. They deserve it. They are product of Devine making. We may start from home to encourage this, we may start from school. Start anywhere, everywhere. We can make something out of it. There is hope.

“Breaking the Child Abuse Cycle: Poverty” by Raiba Soada

2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 2rd Place, Group 2 (Grades 9-12)

Raiba Soada – Fayetteville, NC / Terry Sanford High School

Raiba SoadaAll children deserve to grow up in a world where their comfort, health, and safety are the priority. Children are our primary motivators to move forward in the world, because the future of the world depends on their prosperity. We must support and protect them in every situation. They deserve to have parents who can care for them and keep them happy and healthy. They deserve to be innocent, free, and even sometimes naive. They deserve to live their lives with a blissful unawareness of the harsh realities of our world. They deserve to receive a multifaceted education that that they can one day use toward a successful career in a profession that they enjoy. They have the right to a normal, beautiful childhood.

Unfortunately, many parents are not able to provide a good quality of life for their children because of their income. Some parents end up giving up their children because they cannot provide for them with the money that they make. In countries that don’t have enough resources in place to take care of these children, they are forced to grow up without parents, and they must become self-sufficient — many of these children become independent at the tender age of 6 or 7. They resort to taking on jobs which require them to work 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, under the harsh sun and in the biting cold. Despite the uncomfortable and sometimes life-threatening conditions they work in, they are paid less than one dollar per day, barely enough to live on. Indeed, many of these children end up passing away due to the stress of the work environment, exhaustion from overworking, diseases passed to them by other children working in close quarters, or starvation because they could not pay for food with their meager wages. The ones who survive experience stunted intellectual and physical development, chronic lung diseases, visual impairment, and bone deformations, conditions which make their quality of life very poor. Even if these children grow up to have their own children, since they are already living in poverty, their children end up having to work in the same places they did, and the terrible tradition continues from generation to generation.

The abhorrent practice of child labor is a widespread problem in densely populated countries such as India. Although the law in India is that any child below the age of 14 cannot be forcibly employed, child labor is being used in various workplaces, such as crop fields, industrial manufacturing, packaging plants, restaurant services, housekeeping, and even stone breaking. International companies outsource to India because of the government’s lax attitude toward child labor. The companies take advantage of how desperate the children are for a job. They only want to decrease their labor costs; they do not care how the children are being treated in the sweatshops and factories.

When it comes to creating effective strategies to eradicate child labor, the government is at a loss. They have to keep in mind that these children’s jobs are the only thing keeping them alive; shutting down the sweatshops and factories they work at would only take their source of income away from them and probably make their lives worse. It is estimated that anywhere from 12 million to 60 million child workers exist in India, and the government does not have the resources to take in that many children. Also, it is difficult to track down child labor in India, because most labor is done informally, with little documentation. And since job prospects are much broader in cities and urban schooling is cheaper than rural schooling, child labor is much more widespread in rural areas, which are remote and therefore especially hard for the government to monitor. The government does not know exactly how big of a problem they are dealing with, since there is a dearth of statistics on Indian children living in slums and rural areas.

In order to eradicate the abusive and life-destroying quality of child labor without taking away these children’s sustenance, the government must be careful with its solution. First, they must tackle the underlying problem: poverty. They must create more jobs for adults in both rural and urban areas, as this will prevent their children from having to take on jobs to support their families. This would also prevent destitute parents from having to give up their children just because they cannot pay to support them. Additionally, it would stimulate the economy and benefit everyone in the country. Next, the government must put into effect a checking system to thoroughly inspect all workplaces for their integrity of labor, and if they cannot do away with child labor completely, they should ensure that the working children are not under a certain age, are not being mistreated, and are being paid a living wage. Above all, however, the most important action to take would be to increase the public awareness of the detrimental effects of child labor. Media pressure is an extremely strong tool. When the government and the companies that utilize child labor are called out for allowing these children’s lives to be ruined, only then will they begin to make a change.


“Child Labour in India.” Childline India Foundation. Childline India Foundation, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2015.

“Children in India.” Friends of Salaam Baalak Trust. Friends of Salaam Baalak Trust, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2015. .

“Child Labor in India: A Poverty of Schools?” The Politics of Corruption, Discrimination & Hunger., Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Sept. 2015.

“Child Labour.” UNICEF. UNICEF, 11 June 2015. Web. 11 Sept. 2015.

“16,000 Ebola Orphans: Rethinking Global Children’s Health” by Jason Doukakis

2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 2rd Place, Group 3 (College/University Students)

Jason Doukakis – New Haven, CT / Yale University

Jason DoukakisThe Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which has been dubiously estimated to have claimed 11,305 lives as of the 30th of August 2015, was undoubtedly very well publicized throughout the past year. The media drooled over its headline potential, with the western public gleefully playing along by making it the subject of a myriad of uninformed commentaries, sensationalist outbursts, terrified statuses, tweets, and the sort. In the midst of the uninformed and inappropriately trendy collective hysteria, few became aware of the resulting 16,000 abandoned children that had lost one or both parents or caregivers in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – the Ebola orphans.

As the crisis hit those three countries the hardest, the principal challenge for the international community and aid organizations lied in providing these children with immediate shelter, sustenance and a family. The root problem, however, was that communities and remaining relatives had started to openly refuse to take them in, abandoning them when they contracted the virus or when their parents passed away. In reality, because the young were more likely to survive Ebola, most of these orphans had already done so and were by then immune and no longer contagious. Yet uneducated populations, especially in rural communities, adamantly viewed these children as either Ebola “magnets” or vectors.

The result? More than 16,000 children have had their lives completely shattered, with many having to wander the cities and countryside alone, ostracized and persecuted, in countries lacking the institutional structures and expertise required to respond to a crisis of this magnitude and character. Malnutrition, disease, child labor, military recruitment, sexual exploitation and drug and human trafficking already threaten children in Western African states such as Sierra Leona, where around 12,000 of the Ebola orphans are located. Needless to explain that they were thus even more vulnerable and defenseless in the face of these dangers. Their future appears grim, and as things stand few of them will be lucky enough to permanently settle down or leave the shelters, care centers and orphanages in which they are located any time soon.

This was only one bit of the mosaic of disorder and non-­cooperation that was observed in the countries affected by the epidemic, contributing to a phenomenon experts have termed “pingponging:” ignorant and rattled citizens spreading the virus unknowingly from one village to the other or from the cities to the villages and back again. Exemplary is the case of a mother that survived the virus and explained to journalists how, upon hearing about Ebola, she panicked that “it” – perhaps in some sort of material demonic manifestation – would “come get her.” For this reason she fled and hid from aid workers in the jungle for weeks, where she nevertheless contracted and spread the virus while in hiding. The general citizenry’s lack of fundamental knowledge about health, illnesses and basic medicinal practices poses a frightening challenge to the protection of children in many of these communities. How can we effectively promote rights to child health and education given the crippling consequences of such crises?

Though thousands have died from the Ebola virus, it appears that the orphaned child survivors run the risk of remaining the forgotten victims of this epidemic. In fact, UNICEF declared 2014 to be one of the worst years for children globally, in a report revealing shocking figures and statistics. The resonance of this announcement coupled with the devastating situation of the Ebola orphans has sparked a debate over the efficacy of international crisis response mechanisms. Decades of commitment of international aid organizations in the West African region, promoting provisions and rights for children, have been dreadfully undermined in a mere year’s time. Issues like illiteracy or female circumcision have become almost secondary to aid workers, as many children in Sierra Leone were trapped in hostile quarantine zones, abandoned by their families and attacked by their communities. Meanwhile, approximately 5 million children’s schooling was interrupted. In other words, the inability to effectively combat this crisis has undone years of progress for children and their development in West Africa.

This crisis and the attitude towards child survivors of Ebola indicate that the correct foundations have not been laid out; treating the problem’s symptoms is not the same as attacking its root causes. The priority in such response efforts should be set long before the response to a crisis is required: a preventative strategy of health, sanitation and disease prevention education for local populations. This does not in any way suggest that issues such as literacy and any of the numerous other objectives pursued are in any way inferior or irrelevant, but that in order to achieve them we first need to successfully promote local community health knowledge and a common framework of understanding with the local populations. That is the only way to effectively protect and ensure the health and wellbeing of children, so that we can then fight for their rights, their education and their future. The 16,000 Ebola orphans now remind us exactly that.

− Hersher, Rebecca, McEvers, Kelly. “As Ebola Pingpongs In Liberia, Cases Disappear Into The Jungle.” NPR Online. NPR, 25 Nov. 2014. Web. 7 Sept. 2015.­ping-­pongs-in-­liberia-­cases-­disappear-into‐the‐jungle.
− Kedmey, Dan. “UNICEF Declares 2014 a ‘Devastating’ Year for Children.” TIME Online. TIME, 8 Dec. 2014. Web. 7 Sept. 2015.­‐nations-­global-­conflict-­youth/.
− McNeil, Donald G., Jr. “Fewer Ebola Cases Go Unreported Than Thought, Study Finds.” The New York Times Online. The New York Times, 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 7 Sept. 2015.­ebola-­cases-­go-unreported-­than-­thought-­study-­finds-­.html?_r=0.
− UNICEF News Note, “More than 16,000 children lost parents or caregivers to Ebola -­‐ many are taken in by the communities: UNICEF.” UNICEF Online. UNICEF, 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 7 Sept. 2015.
− WHO, “Ebola Situation Reports.” WHO Online. World Health Organization, 30 Aug. 2015. Web. 7 Sept. 2015­situation-­reports.

“The Ongoing Struggle with Child Rights” by Rumman Kibria

2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 2rd Place, Group 3 (College/University Students)

Rumman Kibria – Los Angeles, CA / Santa Monica College

Rumman KibriaThe great historian Howard Zinn has left a legacy in the words “You can’t be neutral on a moving train”; the title and quote from Zinn’s book as published in 1994. Despite being used metaphorically, the underlying significance of this quote is not as obscure as it may appear, embellishing the concept that individuals cannot decide for themselves while something is already being decided for them. On a moving train, no human being is capable of defying the train’s destination, as it arrives at a fixed endpoint. Thus, in this case, the train is the decision-maker whereas the individual is given no choice.

In the same way, child poverty among other globally pertinent issues such as child labor, trafficking, and lack of education, is not a choice. It is an undesirable outcome that has been decided for, or rather, against, these children. When these boys and girls are approached with such appalling conditions starting from the most infantile stages of life, only they realize the hardship of what they perceive as predestination.

However, over the years, numerous organizations and charities have effectively refuted this misconception, claiming it to be a figment in the hopeless minds of the unfortunate as they continue to prove that these circumstances are reversible through humanitarian means. Although much of the ongoing crisis with child rights is still situated in the same regions of the world, including third-world nations lacking sufficient resources and opportunities, there is evidence of improvement. With the rise in global activism and leading programs such as UNICEF, members have successfully eliminated such horrid conditions in various cities and slums, but the problem still persists in large numbers.

A simple fact claiming “80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day” is enough to reach the minds of thousands of college students in the U.S. who, through the option of Federal Work Study (FWS), are fortunate enough to receive the equivalent pay in just one hour. Another striking difference between the two ends of income shows a “quiet” death of tens of thousands on a daily basis. Now, among this multitude is an essentially equal amount of 22,000 children who die from poverty, also in a “quiet” manner that remains unknown to the world.

Furthermore, if “10.6 million children died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5”, and an annual accumulation of 1.4 million deaths due to the drinking of unsafe water is still at present, then it should be no surprise that a grand total of 121 million children worldwide have no education. Without a doubt, the lack of basic necessities as well as a path to literacy is an issue at large.

Then the question arises of whether children who are employed undergo better conditions. In the short run, some working children are able to earn a certain minimal amount and evade starvation. However, like in the U.S. during the 19th century, child labor activity has surreptitiously passed through any possible inspection that would deem it perilous. In Bangladesh, for example, a 1992 Child Labour Deterrence Act which was initiated in the U.S., led 50,000 Bangladeshi child workers to abandon their original occupation in the garments industry. Although the U.S. had successfully cut off ties that would link Bangladeshi workers to their dangerous profession, studies later showed the majority of these workers to get involved in jobs even more hazardous than garments, including “stone-crushing, street hustling, and prostitution”. According to UNICEF, “more than 85 million children are subjected to physical labor, exploitation and trafficking”. While Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist may have gone hand in hand with favorable child labor laws passed in the 1900’s, other parts of the world still face deaths and casualties from everyday accidents in factories.

There is a total of over 2.2 billion children in the world, with 1 billion of them living in poverty, or in other words, a little less than half the total. One of the most responsible catalysts in the deaths of these children is the lack of healthcare. Whether a child’s cause of death is from not being immunized, bad sanitation, adulterated water, or being orphaned due to HIV/AIDS, this is among every one in seven children who has never experienced health benefits; one in five with “no access to safe water”; and one in three “without adequate shelter”. Even aside from death, the lack of such services comes in other adverse forms. As stated by UNICEF, “Children with disabilities are at least four times more likely to suffer violence or sexual abuse”.

Many overlook the interests of child rights as a hopeless cause; however, this is often the result of ignoring even the simplest facts. Not everyone realizes that “less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000”. If a greater portion of the world population came to this understanding, the chances of charitable donations and sponsorship would increase. As a result, underdeveloped countries would witness a substantial buildup of schools and facilities alongside improved irrigation, clinical treatment, household stability, and homes and orphanages. Meanwhile, even though advocates are constantly giving this reminder, everyone should keep in mind that in many parts of the world in which poverty prevails, the amount it takes to sustain one life is no more than a couple of dollars. Most Americans are capable of this task, but the important part is to try and avoid overlooking the matter. There is no reason to give up on a cause that gives hope.

Shah, Anup. “Poverty Facts and Stats.” Global Issues. 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 8 Sep. 2015.

“Child Labor.” Reviewed by Milton Fried. The New Book of Knowledge. Grolier Online, 2014. Web. 9 September 2015.

“Child Protection & Development.” UNICEF USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015.

“Show a Little Kindness” by Bejamin Ekpunobi

2015 Child Rights Essay Competition: 3rd Place, Group 2 (Grades 9-12)

Benjamin Ekpunobi – Nkpor, Nigeria / Winners International School

Benjamin Ekpunobi“When I was 14, my father gave me a few dollars and a one-way train ticket to the nearest city, where there were many perils. I made friends with other youngsters who, like me, did not have anyone interested in them. Many of us became alcoholics. I became arrogant, vulgar, and aggressive. I was often without food. One winter evening my friends and I burned the furniture to keep warm. How I would have liked a family to care for me, to be interested in my sentiments, my anxieties, my fears. But I was alone, terribly alone.”

If you live in affluent lands, you will hardly understand the plight of most of us children here in Africa. The above story was from a child who left village to grow in the city with no one in company simply because his parents can no longer care for him. It was a real life story that can tell what millions of children across the globe are passing through. The simple language is that they are not wanted.

Children in some developing lands are placed on the lowest rung of the ladder of recognition and respect. In my culture, children are ordered about in threatening and authoritative tones, yelled at and insulted. It may be rare to hear an adult say a kind word to a child, not to mention courtesies such as “please” and “thank you.” It is a sin to treat children with right and small respect they deserve in this part of the world. Fathers feel they must establish their authority with strong hands; hard words are reinforced with hard blows and mothers feel they have absolute right to do anything with their children and still see it as training and inculcating values. Here we don’t know right.

Here in Africa, it is even viewed as impertinent for a child to say a greeting to a grown-up on his own initiative. It is not uncommon to see youths, weighed down with heavy loads on their heads, patiently waiting for permission to greet a group of adults. The grown-ups will carry on their idle chatter, ignoring the waiting youths until they choose to let them offer greetings. Only after those greetings have been said are the children allowed to pass. Sometimes, I wonder why this treatment. With this treatment, I am sure, it will be very difficult for many to survive into a balanced adult.

Poverty has also worked against the welfare of children. Many families are extremely poor in Africa. For children, they become bread winners at the age of their lives when they should be in school with others. At the expense of their health and schooling, youngsters are exploited as child labourers. Unreasonably heavy workloads are placed on children even at home. And when families in rural areas send their children to the big cities to be cared for by relatives while they are being schooled, they are frequently treated as virtual slaves. Surely, all this shabby treatment is irritating to children! Still to others, they are exposed so early to other abuses like sex slaves and prostitution which ruins their future. And that is why we have more children making babies. Disheartening!

From its very inception, the United Nations organization has been interested in children and their problems. That is a credit, I admit. But they should also admit that they know that their attention and interest in the rights of children are not being felt anywhere here. The more they try to educate people on the media abut child abuse and slavery, the more developing countries adopt modern slavery. What practical thing should help children secure a place in an adult world filled with brutality and uncaring heart?

The development of a global human rights culture should be adopted. What I mean is that through education we should make people more aware of rights of children. Of course, that’s a huge challenge because it involves a change of mentality, training, orientation, commitment and real effort. Hopefully, education may change the minds and hearts of people. This may almost sound like the Gospel, but when it comes to human rights education, I’m a true believer. I hope the world will adopt the human rights culture as its ideology in the next century.

Neglected and abused children globally are not asking for much. They are asking for attention and care. They are helpless and when they become balanced adult, they will be able to line up to do the work a balanced adult can do and even better. They know that as much as they might like to, they cannot furnish the crippled child with healthy limbs, activate the mind of the mentally disabled child, reunite a child with his separated or divorced parents, or place him back in the loving embrace of a deceased parent, but can just make them smile and feel life.