By DELIA PAUL
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Koumbou Boly Barry, has called on UN Member States to fight discrimination to ensure that all children have access to education, fulfilling Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 (quality education). The UN reports that 263 million children around the world are not receiving education, due to a range of factors, including being migrants or refugees, or because of their cultural, linguistic or ethnic background.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres circulated the Special Rapporteur’s report (A/72/498) to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on 23 September. The report reviews the role of equity and inclusion in strengthening the right to education, particularly in the context of achieving the SDGs. The report highlights a number of factors that influence whether or not children have the chance to be educated include poverty, disabilities, living in rural areas, being nomadic and being girls. The report cites studies from around the world indicating the dimensions of the problem and provides examples of national actions that have been effective in promoting equity and inclusion in the educational sphere.
The report calls for governments to identify people and groups in need of specific, targeted support and to review their laws and policies to address those needs. Such action, the report argues, must include collecting and publishing disaggregated data and should encompass all aspects of education from early childhood care to adult literacy programmes.
The report concludes by calling for States to take significant, positive actions to tackle discrimination, inequity and exclusion in education to ensure that the SDGs are met.
Koumbou Boly Barry is from Burkina Faso, and was appointed Special Rapporteur on the right to education in 2016.
Published on IISD on October 26, 2017.
By Heather Barr
It’s been a funny week. I’m in Kabul, Afghanistan, launching a new Human Rights Watch report I wrote about the lack of progress in girls’ education in Afghanistan. But in between meetings, in the back of a dusty Corolla, stalled at security checkpoints, I’ve been emailing frantically about Florida.
Afghanistan has a serious problem with child marriage.
So does Florida.
In Afghanistan child marriage is associated with girls dropping out of school, sinking into poverty, being at greater risk of domestic violence, and with serious health risks, including death. Child marriage is associated with similar harms in the United States too.
Child marriage law tougher in Afghanistan than FloridaOne important difference, though, between Florida and Afghanistan, is that Afghanistan has a tougher law on child marriage than Florida does. In Afghanistan girls can marry at 16, or at 15 with permission from their father or a judge. In Florida, a pregnant girl can marry at any age, with the approval of a judge.
Human Rights Watch has done extensive research on child marriage, interviewing hundreds of married children in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malawi, Nepal, South Sudan, Tanzania, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. Human Rights Watch has also advocated for an end to child marriage in other countries, including Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Of these countries, only Saudi Arabia and Yemen, like Florida in the case of a pregnant child, have laws that set no age below which children cannot marry.
A group of organisations working to end child marriage in the United States will travel to Tallahassee, Florida next week to ask members of the state legislature to pass a pending law that would set the minimum age of marriage in Florida at 18 with no exceptions.
16,000 children married in FloridaFlorida is among the US states with the highest rates of child marriage – between 2011 and 2015, more than 16,000 children under the age of 18 married in Florida. But it is far from alone in permitting child marriage. Marriage below the age of 18 is legal in all 50 states, and Florida is one of 25 states in which under some circumstances children of any age can marry. According to 2000 to 2010 data from 38 states, more than 167,000 children married in those states alone during this period.
Child marriage occurs in every region of the world and globally, one out of every four girls marries before age 18, and 15 million girls under 18 marry each year—one every two seconds. The overwhelming majority of married children are girls, most of whom marry spouses who are older than they are—in some cases much older.
Research demonstrates that child marriage is associated with, and in some cases causes, severe harm, wherever married children live. A 2010 study found that girls or young women in the US who married before age 19 were 50 per cent more likely to drop out of high school than their unmarried counterparts, and only 25 per cent as likely to complete college. Girls who marry as early teens, before age 16, in the US are 31 per cent more likely to end up in poverty later in life.
Impact of child marriageResearchers have found significant associations between child marriage and mental and physical health disorders. Research from other countries shows a correlation between child marriage and domestic violence. Married girls often find it more difficult than married women to escape an abusive or unhappy marriage, and to get services such as shelter and legal assistance.
Child marriage in the US is a crucially important issue because the future of tens of thousands of children in the US is being jeopardised by child marriage. It is also important because this is a key moment in a global effort to end child marriage, and donor countries like the US need to show that they will work to end child marriage not only abroad but at home as well.
Under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which went into effect in January 2016, countries around the world, including the US, agreed to a target of ending all child marriage by 2030. Countries including Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Malawi, Nepal, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden have recently revised their laws in an effort to reduce child marriage. Many other countries have developed or are developing national action plans for ending child marriage by 2030.
In the US, New York, Texas, and Virginia recently passed laws cracking down on child marriage. If the Florida law passes, it will be the first US state to ban all marriage before age 18.
Girls in Florida, and around the world, need to be kids, not wives.
Published on HRW on October 20, 2017
By Ignatius Annor
First Lady of Sierra Leonne, Sia Koroma has said a consensus with sub Saharan African countries is been mooted to study child marriage and examine its implications for the girl child.
‘‘We hope to have an important understanding of child marriage, its consequences, or the drivers, the solutions of child marriage. We will look policies, legal framework surrounding child marriage and we intend to build a platform where we’ll be sharing a successes and challenges’‘;Sia Koroma said as the world marked International Day for the Girl.
Child marriage is a severe violation of human rights and one of the worst forms of child abuse, the Sierra Leonean First Lady intimated. She added that West and Central African have a high prevalence.
‘‘Sierra Leone and teenage pregnancy I will regard as some others do as the two evil twins. We have a high prevalence child marriage in Sierra Leone and teenage pregnancy and we’ve looked at it in depth. There is a disproportionate affection’‘,she noted.
Sia Koroma said her country is working to have resources spent on implementing programs aimed at ending the practice.
The Sierra Leonean First Lady intimated that there’re a lot of community mobilisation and social mobilisation in the formal and informal settings, traditional religious leaders have been very important in ending child marriage. Memorandums of understanding have been sent, they are formulated bylaws and edits to end this situation.’‘And besides we are part of the AU (African Union) launch, we have launched our campaign to end child marriage in Sierra Leone’‘.
In 2013, Sierra Leone established a national secretariat and also put in a place a national strategy to end child marriage. The country is hoping to end child marriage in the region so girls can maximize their full potential and contribute towards national development and the sustainable development goals.
Published on AfricaNews on October 15, 2017.
By Sam Mednick
“We knew nothing before,” said Mangar Kual, deputy of Warabiei cattle camp.
Situated just outside of South Sudan’s Rumbek town, Warabiei is one of thousands of sprawling camps where South Sudan’s cattle keepers diligently care for their livestock.
The smell of manure hangs in the air, and the ash from burnt feces, meant to keep the bugs away, is smeared across the faces of young men and women tending to hundreds of cows.
Cracking a smile, Kual stares at the keypad on his mobile phone. “Now we can dial our phones and we can write,” he said.
For the past year Kual, once illiterate, has attended the cattle camp’s new school without walls. Spearheaded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the Pastoralist Livelihood and Education project is an European Union-funded pilot program and the first of its kind in South Sudan. It’s aimed at promoting education, specifically for roving and isolated communities.
As the world’s youngest nation battles starvation and allegations of grave human rights abuses, its 4-year civil war shows no signs of ending. While the majority of organizations in South Sudan are focused on the immense humanitarian needs of more than 6 million people—half the country’s population—several agencies are putting resources into developing and improving the country’s ailing education system, specifically for displaced and remote communities.
“Without literacy and numeracy skills, gains made through pastoralist livelihood support cannot be sustained,” said Ezana Kassa, project manager for FAO.
FAO’s new field schools target South Sudan’s cattle keepers and their families by embedding trained facilitators into the communities. As pastoralists are required to move frequently, Kassa said they’re often left out of basic services, including education. In order to combat this, FAO has trained 20 facilitators, who live and travel with the communities. Currently, the program is operating in 10 cattle camps around the country, employing two teachers per camp and educating approximately 1,600 children and adults in total.
Huddled under a tree with 30 other students, Kual rests his gun, which he uses to protect his livestock, on the ground before trading it in for a book for his daily, hour-long class.
“Repeat after me,” said Chol Mafet, the camp’s 22-year-old facilitator, pointing to the small portable blackboard. “What is science?”
The students echo back Mafet’s words, likely not yet fully comprehending the meaning of what they’re saying. Although school is optional, Mafet, who’s been teaching in the camp for a year, told Devex people are keen to learn.
“They ask questions about how to achieve peace and how to live together and how to be healthy and protect themselves and their cattle from sickness,” Mafet said.
As the nature of the school is unique, so is the curriculum, which is tailored to meet the population's’ needs. It’s designed to provide context and practical examples including relevant livelihood skills.
“Literacy and numeracy are not taken as side learning,” Kassa said.
Instead, he said, it’s integrated in practical “livelihood discussions so that they are more functional to their everyday use.”
Additionally, the teachers are selected from the same community in which they work rather than deploying a professional from outside the town or villages. Potential teachers don’t need prior experience, but they do need a high school education. They receive three months of training beforehand and periodic trainings thereafter. This helps to ensure that the facilitators are able to live in remote and often challenging environments, which might include sleeping on feces-soaked ground surrounded by hundreds of cows.
A few hours from the cattle camp, outside of Rumbek in the remote village of Wulu Gedim, 20-year-old Martha Abel teaches literacy, math and livestock and animal production to the villagers who have been “left behind.”
“This area is forgotten,” said adult student Barnaba Yaor, sitting on a wooden bench in his outdoor classroom.
Wulu Gedim sits between two larger towns and, as a result, residents say that, over the years, they haven’t received much support.
Eighteen-year-old Abraham Mading dropped out of primary school years ago because of the arduous 2-hour walk. Since April, however, he’s started learning again.
Through the program, adults are offered classes once a week and youth have the option to come on a daily basis. Currently, 60 women and 15 men are taking advantage of the adult class.
Although FAO’s program is the first to focus on pastoralist communities, other development organizations in South Sudan are adopting similar practices in order to target the increasing number of displaced civilians. Since the onset of the war, more than 4 million people have been forced from their homes, 2 million of whom have been internally displaced.
“When communities are displaced, we make an effort to follow them where they are,” said Akuja Mading, team leader for Girls’ Education South Sudan, a United Kingdom aid-funded program focusing on increasing access to quality education for girls. By providing cash grants to girls and schools, as well as through teacher training, the goal is to remove barriers that prevent girls from receiving an education.
Four years ago when the program was launched, just before the war broke out, Mading said they weren’t planning on strategizing to reach displaced populations.
Due to the conflict, however, they’ve had to adapt. As a result GESS has selected what they refer to as “county-level colleagues” who move with displaced communities and act as the program’s point of reference on the ground.
“Wherever they settle or resettle and are interested in rebuilding a school for their community, we still have that contact,” Mading said. She says having that focal person embedded within the community provides for continuity.
GESS also greatly relies on the use of radio when reaching and educating remote places.
“Even in the deepest village in South Sudan, someone usually has a radio,” Mading said.
GESS produces programs in nine local languages and airs them on FM stations. For areas without coverage, they use portable wind ups. The goal of the radio programs is not only to focus on education, but to stimulate discussion and shift behaviors and mindsets.
Ultimately, Mading said, school is about the community and the teachers—not the location.
“As long as you can provide support and the community is set up, it doesn’t matter where you are.”
Published on DEVEX on October 10, 2017
By Fred K. Nkusi
Most recently, the Government lifted the ban which had been imposed on foreigners or persons outside Rwanda to adopt children in the country. Initially, the decision to bar the adoption of Rwandan children was based on reasonable concerns that children's best interest may not be potentially catered for. It was important to first ensure the protection of adopted children while abroad.
To start with, prospective adoptive parents had to comply with the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Hague Convention is an international agreement to safeguard intercountry adoptions. It was concluded in 1993 to establish international standards of practices for intercountry adoptions.
Interestingly, adopting a child from a Convention country is similar in many ways to adopting a child from a country not party to the Convention. However, there are some key differences. In particular, those seeking to adopt may receive greater protections if they adopt from a Convention country.
Like many countries, Rwanda ratified this Convention and entered into force for Rwanda in July, 2012. Therefore, lifting the ban implies that concerns are perhaps no more. Equally, it signifies the country's willingness and ability to adhere to its international obligations under the Convention. The Convention, however, requires that State parties to it establish a Central Authority to be the authoritative source of information and point of contact. But, what's the objective of the Convention? The Convention aims to prevent the abduction, sale of, or trafficking in children, and it works to ensure that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of children. The Convention recognizes intercountry adoption as a means of offering the advantage of a permanent home to a child when a suitable family has not been found in the child's country of origin. Nevertheless, it must be done in the child's best interest. In so doing, State parties to the Convention are required to take steps to ensure two main things. First, to be factually certain that child has been deemed eligible for adoption by the child's country of origin. Second, the consideration has been given to finding an adoption placement for the child in its country of origin.
Rwanda's adherence to intercountry adoption Convention is well expressed in the law Nº 32/2016 of 28/08/2016 governing persons and family. To begin with, this law recognises two forms of adoption. The first one is simple adoption, as seen in Article 288, which refers to maintaining filiation ties with the adoptee's family of origin, and the second is full adoption, as seen in Article 294 of the same law, that completely severs filiation ties with the adoptee's family of origin. However, the severance of filiation ties with the family of origin does not entail the loss of rights to his/her country. In these two forms of adoption, law provides specific requirements for adoption to be justified in each category.
More specifically, the foregoing law envisages 'intercountry Adoption' which creates relationship between a child and an adoptive parent with whom he/she has no kinship relationship but both are not domiciled in the same country. And intercountry adoption can either be simple adoption or full adoption. However, the law doesn't simply grant a blanket green light, there're essential requirements to be met prior to approving the adoption, such as adoption aimed at the interests of the child; there is no other person in the country of origin of the child to be adopted who wishes to adopt the child; the consent of those required to consent to the adoption was freely given and that all of them got necessary advice and were duly informed on consequences of their consent; the receiving State where the adopted child is to be transferred has proved that the intending intercountry adoptive parent has enough capacity to cater for the child and is of good moral integrity required for adoption; and the country of the intending adoptive parent has approved that the child will be allowed to enter and reside in such a country on a permanent basis.
In addition to having policy and statutory frameworks for child adoption, there's an institutional framework to foster child rights/interests. That's the National Commission for Children (NCC) whose core mandate is to promote and ensure child education that enables the child to be a worthy and patriotic citizen, among others.
Importantly, the NCC serves as a Central Authority mandated to be the authoritative source of information and point of contact on behalf of the government.
This isn't, however, enough to ensure the protection of the child's best interest, there's also a need to have a monitoring mechanism for intercountry adoption to constantly keep abreast of any development on a child's life. And, in case of non-compliance with agreed standards by adoptive parents, there must be a mechanism to resolve the issue or, if need be, to rescind the agreement for child adoption through court process.
Today, no one overlooks a barrage of cases of child abuse, exploitation and violence happening in various places around the world. Therefore, a very cautious approach is needed to ensure that the adopted children's rights are never abused.
Published on All Africa on October 10, 2017.
By Christopher Zoukis
One in 14 children in the U.S. has one or both parents in prison — and those children are four times more likely to end up in jail themselves. They also drop out of school at a higher rate and, if they are in foster care, are 65 percent more likely to become homeless once they age out.
Those are sobering statistics, but there’s more. Between 1991 and 2007 the number of imprisoned adults that had children in their care at the time of incarceration has grown by 79 percent.
Much has been said, studied and written about how prisoners should be treated and educated, but earlier this year in Oregon, attention also turned to the children that are left behind when a parent goes to jail. In Oregon, nearly 70,000 children have one or both parents in behind bars. The numbers are skewed toward African-Americans (1 in 9 children) and those low on the socio-economic scale (1 in 8 children).
To address the needs of these children, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a bill of rights – the first of its kind – with the aim of creating policies that help children maintain ties with their incarcerated mothers and/or fathers, and reducing the trauma associated with having a parent in prison.
“We know that a large part of what helps with re-entry is having families that are intact. Children of incarcerated parents are victims, as well, of what happens. Their needs are rarely taken into consideration by the courts [and] by the police,” said Senator Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), the chief sponsor of the bill.
There are nine rights on the bill, including these four:
1. The right to maintain a relationship with the incarcerated parent(s)
2. The right to be protected from trauma and harm following the parent(s) arrest
3. The right to be included in decisions, such as foster care
4. The right to be cared for in a way that takes the child’s mental, emotional and physical needs into account.
Additional bills that Dembrow supported focus on incarcerated parents’ entry back into society when their jail time is completed, and include:
1. Suspension of child support payments for the incarcerated parent(s)
2. The ability to do community service in lieu of paying court fees and fines, for those on probation
3. Certificates of good standing for those with minor offenses that demonstrate good behaviour, community service and adherence to probation rules. Such certificates aim to give released prisoners a better chance at obtaining self-sufficiency through housing and jobs.
It’s hoped this two-pronged approach for the children incarcerated parents and the parents themselves will increase a child’s overall wellness following their parent’s arrest and incarceration, foster the maintenance of the family unit, help parents get back into society with the ability to take care of their children, and reduce the stigma children with parents in jail often experience.
While a bill of this nature is not binding, it’s a big step forward in the continuous revamp of America’s prison system, and the recently created Task Force on Children of Incarcerated Parents will further develop the children’s bill of rights and help to implement it across the state’s wellness agencies.
The overarching goal of the bill, the support behind it, and the work ahead of it, is to consistently identify and break down the barriers that come up when a child has a parent committed to jail. The social, economic, mental and access-to-opportunities barriers can create huge obstacles for these children. Hopefully this new bill of rights will dismantle those barriers, resulting in better rehabilitation for offenders and better outcomes for families.
Published on the HuffPost on October 4, 2017.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the rights that must be realized for children to develop their full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect and abuse. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of a family and community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. By recognizing children's rights in this way, the Convention firmly sets the focus on the whole child.