“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. http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

“Child Labor.” Reviewed by Milton Fried. The New Book of Knowledge. Grolier Online, 2014. Web. 9 September 2015. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/history-child-labor

“Child Protection & Development.” UNICEF USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2015. http://www.unicefusa.org/mission/protect?gclid=CICy3aqo88cCFUdqfgodFzMEQA