Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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This year the COVID-19 pandemic has thrust children around the world into uncertainty.

At ChildFund, we are also deeply concerned about the impact this pandemic will have on the children and families with whom we work; communities who are already vulnerable due to poverty.

If the issues facing children are not addressed, they could have a devastating impact on children now and in the future.

Despite this uncertainty, children around the world are optimistic about the world they are helping to shape.

On World Children’s Day, we’re sharing the views of children and young people around the world who imagine a brighter future.

Namfonh, 16, Laos

“In the future, children will dare to speak out, share their ideas, and participate in society,” Namfonh said. “They’ll be able to access quality information, and will have skills and show their capacities in their daily lives.”

Namfonh said children needed to keep pushing for change in their communities and for more opportunities to have their opinions and ideas heard.

“Experience is something we have to go after and pursue,” Namfonh said. “It isn’t just going to come to us; we have to walk towards it.”

16-year-old Namfonh from Vietiane Capital, Laos, at the 2020 Lao Child Forum supported by ChildFund.

Feb, 17, Timor-Leste

Seventeen-year-old Febis blazing a trail in her small community in Timor-Leste. She is a passionate and confident ChildFund Pass It Back coach who wants to change the future for girls and women in her country.

“In Timor-Leste, there is no gender equality,” she says. “We still use this ancient system, where opportunities are given to boys or men. There are less opportunities in terms of education and jobs for girls and women. Women have no opportunity to lead; they just know how to cook.”

But Feb is stirring the pot. As a ChildFund Pass It Back coach she is a part of a new generation of girls and young women in Timor-Leste who are learning about their rights and taking action.

“What I would like to change in Timor-Leste is this ancient system; we have to give opportunities for girls and women so they can develop themselves and they can become leaders,” Feb says.

Recently, she applied to become a member of the Youth Parliament. Her motive?

“I want to raise the issue of gender equality,” Feb says. “I want equal opportunities for girls and boys in Timor-Leste.”

ChildFund Pass It Back female coach in Timor-Leste.
ChildFund Pass It Back coach Feb, age 17, in Liquica municipality, Timor-Leste.

Jane, 22, Kenya

Where Jane lives in Kiambu County, Kenya, a rural community known for its sprawling coffee farms, it’s unusual to see a young woman entering such a traditionally male-dominated industry. In fact, youth unemployment in Kenya is high regardless of gender.

According to the country’s 2018 Basic Labour Force Report, more than 11 percent of youth aged 15-34 in the country are unemployed, putting them at risk of poverty and homelessness.

The dangers are even greater for unemployed or low-income girls in this age group, who face higher rates of teen pregnancy and gender-based violence than their peers.

But Jane has the confidence of a girl who knows she’s going places, thanks in part to ChildFund’s job training programs, which focus on the specific needs of young adults.

When you ask Jane why she decided to study electrical work, her response is simple: “Because I liked it.”

She grins. Then she adds: “I wanted to help people. And I wanted to show other girls that there is no course they can’t take.”

Jane, 22, is training to be an electrician as part of ChildFund’s Youth Vocational Skills project in Kiambu County, Kenya.
Jane, 22, is training to be an electrician as part of ChildFund’s Youth Vocational Skills project in Kiambu County, Kenya.

Phongsavanh, 15, Laos

By 2030, I want all children to have access to a quality education. I want improved maternal and child healthcare, and better nutrition for children, and I want children to be able to access appropriate platforms to learn and exchange their knowledge and their skills.

I also want communities to be well prepared for the effects of climate change. We need to promote the 3Rs (Reuse, Reduce and Recycle) in our communities so we can reduce the impact.

In addition, I want children in Laos to be able to access to digital devices and the digital world, but we also need to know how to use the internet safely.

My aspiration is to make sure all children in my country know their rights. I want to encourage them to develop their knowledge and skills as much as possible so they can have a good future.

Child delegate Phongsavanh, age 15, (right) from Laos speaks at the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in New York. ChildFund Laos supported Phongsavanh on this trip. November 20, 2019.
Child delegate Phongsavanh, age 15, (right) from Laos attends the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in New York. ChildFund Laos supported Phongsavanh on this trip. November 20, 2019.

The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action defines Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPHA) as the prevention of and response to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against children in humanitarian action.

The majority of people affected by humanitarian emergencies are children, according to the UNCHR Global Trends Report. Millions of children currently live in countries affected by humanitarian crises and disasters. In 2018, almost 50 million children were in need of protection in humanitarian settings, according to Save the Children’s report, Unprotected: Crisis in Humanitarian Funding for Child Protection.

In times of crisis, children face an increased risk of all forms of violence and exploitation including trafficking, physical and sexual abuse, and landmines.

  •   Millions of children are on the move in search of a better life, often due to poverty, conflicts, and climate change.
  •   Pandemics and infectious disease are presenting new threats to the well-being of children, as stated by the United Nations Secretary General in his policy brief on COVID-19.
  •   In emergencies, children can be separated from their families, trafficked, recruited, or used by armed forces.
  •   According to The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, of which ChildFund Alliance is a member, children are recruited and used by armed forces in at least 25 nations. This is a significant increase from the 13 nations estimated to be recruiting children in 2007.
  •   Children’s vulnerability to economic exploitation and physical or sexual abuse increases during emergencies. According to 2016 International Labor Organization estimates, 4.3 million children are engaged in forced labour worldwide and one million are victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
  •   Thousands of children are killed or injured every year by explosive weapons and landmines. Nearly one million children are affected by the presence of dangerous landmines that also limit their access to essential services, and one in four landmine victims are children, according to a report by The Child Protection Working Group.

Funding for child protection, however, is alarmingly limited. Child protection receives an average share of only 0.5% of total humanitarian funding, which totaled $27.3 billion in 2017. In 2018, less than $4.50 was spent per child in need of protection for the whole year. The lack of resources for child protection puts children’s survival and development at risk.

ChildFund and CPHA

ChildFund Alliance is committed to supporting the rights of children during humanitarian crises. The Alliance prioritises both short- and long-term child protection in its responses to emergencies. In humanitarian crises such as floods, earthquakes, conflicts, or pandemics, our response addresses the needs as expressed in the standards established to provide protection for children.  In addition to addressing the effects of disasters, our prevention work focuses on reducing and mitigating disaster risk for children. ChildFund Alliance supports children and communities before, during, and after crisis through:

  •   Providing safe spaces for children
  •   Working to strengthen the child protection systems
  •   Provision of food and life savings services
  •   Child and youth-led development
  •   Disaster risk reduction activities
  •   Child- and youth-focused preparedness
  •   Participating and coordinating with external coalitions, committees, networks and working groups specialising in children in humanitarian actions, such as the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action
  •   Returning to community development during the reconstruction phase

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

ChildFund’s Disaster Risk Reduction strategy aims to:

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  •   Support members in mapping child protection risks and existing local child protection mechanisms
  •   Provide a member-accessible tool box that is available for adaptation across contexts and existing programs (accompanied by training and materials)
  •   Create a platform for sharing information among members
  •   Adapt the Child-friendly Accountability model to engage youth in safe DRR strategies at the community level
  •   Promote meaningful youth leadership and engagement in community-level DRR processes. 

The Alliance established a Task Force on Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPHA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in July 2017. The Task Force is a cross-functional group comprising staff across Alliance members who have expertise and specialisation in child protection in humanitarian actions, emergencies and programs. The role of the Task Force is to provide guidance and coordination to support the CPHA & DRR objectives and activities of the Alliance.

Current CPHA Work
Child Protection and COVID-19

Margaret in Kenya

Currently, ChildFund Alliance members are supporting children and communities in the wake of the global COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has resulted in millions of infections, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and social and economic disruption worldwide. It is especially dangerous for children and families living in fragile economies. As millions of jobs are lost, the cost of food and necessities rise, and our overburdened health systems struggle to treat the infected, millions of children will suffer from poverty, violence, and exploitation.

During this unprecedented time, ChildFund launched Forward Strong: COVID-19 Response Plan, which outlines life-changing services and resources to support children in the more than 60 countries where we work. ChildFund’s COVID-19 response plan focuses on:

1. Stopping COVID-19 from infecting children and families.
2. Ensuring children get the food they need.
3. Keeping children safe from violence.
4. Helping children continue their learning.

The Alliance’s CPHA & DRR Task Force, in collaboration with our Country Offices, aim to increase comprehensive child protection programs across ChildFund Alliance to address the risks to children and the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 recovery phase.