Research tells us that when we change the world around our children, resilience follows, regardless of their individual capacity to cope with adversity.
Gifts are often something we think of as meaningful, but mostly superfluous expressions of our love for each other. But in some cases, gifts can be blessings that change the course of people's lives for good. As Human Rights Day approaches, I've been reflecting on ways to offer hope for a better future to children in need overseas.
Each year around this time, I find myself frustrated that the world still needs to observe Universal Children's Day on November 20th. Don't get me wrong, kids are worth celebrating. As someone who has dedicated my life to serving children, I believe that at my core.
The Egyptian regime is barring the Al-Qazzaz family from returning to their home in Canada, and has seized a significant amount of their assets, including the family business. The case has drawn lots of international criticism, and it's not hard to see why, given that it involves the violation of several United Nations instruments.
Numbered at 1.8 billion, the world is now home to the largest generation of young people aged 10 to 24 in its history. Having grown up in a digital era and more connected than ever before, younger generations are able to see the world's boundaries as more fluid, recognizing their shared interests and values with people around the globe.
Child-sex tourism is a particular kind of commercial sexual exploitation of children, interrelated with prostitution, pornography and human trafficking for sexual purposes. It occurs when someone travels to a place and, while there, sexually abuses a local child or young person.
Of all the developments we have read about in the Syrian tragedy, the rising tide of child labour is one of the more concerning. We've worked on the issue of child labour for two decades, interviewing hundreds of too-young workers and learning about the long-term challenges they will face without an education. These kids want to help ease the burden poverty for their families now, but it will cost the Syrian people even more in poverty in the years to come. If there are no income opportunities for refugee families, we won't break the cycle of child labour.
"Research shows the earlier and longer youth spend in the system, the worse the outcomes are," says Peter Leone, a professor at the University of Maryland who has studied juvenile justice measures around the world for more than 20 years. It costs approximately $100,000 a year to incarcerate one young person in Canada. If that individual becomes a hardened life-long criminal, the amount will exceed a staggering $2 million, according to a Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada.
As Canada's streets fill again with yellow buses, we're reminded how fortunate Canadians are in the educational opportunities available to our children -- opportunities that do not exist for millions of others. And while the world has made great progress on education over the last decade, there are alarming signs we're losing some of the gains we've made. When the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to end extreme poverty were launched in 2000, the United Nations recorded more than 196 million children and teens not attending school. The biggest barrier is poverty -- And for many children, schools are far from their homes, requiring much more in boarding costs.
Every day we witness the power of young people to transform their communities and the world. The potential lost when a child is handed an AK-47 instead of a schoolbook or soccer ball is one of the greatest tragedies imaginable. But as governments stop recruiting children, over the past year militias and terror groups like the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram in Nigeria, have horrifyingly indoctrinated thousands more. And the way these militias use their children is changing in terrifying ways.
Luisa spends most of her life on a sweltering treadmill, just to help keep herself and her family alive. It's amazing to think that while we take every precaution to make sure our children stay safe and well hydrated on our hikes and walks, there are children whose very lives depend on their making long, dangerous walks.
On balance, however, this was not a good year for world peace. Russian aggression in Crimea and the Ukraine, and the West's response, pushed the world closer to a new Cold War. Revelations about the CIA's use of torture were enough to shake anyone's faith in the goodness of humanity. Meanwhile, the Middle East spiralled downward with greater violence in Gaza, Syria and Iraq. At home we are still not on track to meet our emissions targets. And the strongest praise environmentalists could muster for the climate change deal reached in Lima, Peru, last week was to wince and say it is "better than nothing."
Thursday is the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely endorsed human rights treaty in history. The Convention enshrines children's rights to protection, survival, development and participation. For a quarter century it has influenced laws, policies and government priorities in 194 countries. Most importantly, it has changed how children are viewed and treated.
When hundreds of girls are kidnapped in Nigeria, disappearing into the night for months and counting, the world is outraged. When boys are handed guns and forced into militias, the world is shocked. When children work as slave labourers in mines, there are global cries for action. But these atrocities are only part of the picture.
The entire school in Ayr, Scotland, vibrated with anticipation. The lunchroom sounded more like a debate hall than a cafeteria. Kirsty McCahill watched the clock tick down to the closing bell. She rushed home, then to the nearby community centre to do what no Scottish 16-year-old had ever done before that day: vote on the future of her country.
No more hockey. No more swimming lessons. For 15,000 Thunder Bay families living in poverty, the proposed funding cuts in 2005 meant the end of the only affordable sports and recreation programs available to their children. The council debate was rancorous. The motion looked ready to pass. Then one councillor rose to remind his colleagues of their promise to the city's young: the Children's Charter.
While much of the onus lies on individual nations to strengthen their laws and enforcement against labour exploitation, van de Glind also pointed out that Canadians can do our part, too. And if exploitation continues because it remains profitable, we as consumers can make it less so. Before checking out the half-off sale at that popular clothing chain, do your research. Check web sites to read what companies say about their sourcing. If the information isn't easily available, write the company and ask. The more pressure companies feel from customers, the more attention they will pay to ethical sourcing.
Starting today, children will be able to appeal directly to the United Nations when their rights are overlooked, neglected or violated. And the movement to hand this power to the world's children was started by a Canadian with an iron will and a huge heart.
It's likely one-year-old Rana was malnourished the entire year she'd been alive, since aid hadn't reached the village in her lifetime. Doctors could do nothing by the time she was admitted to the field hospital just north of the Syrian capital of Damascus. She died within 24 hours of admittance. Rana was born, and died, during the civil war that is slowly attacking Syria's children. The people left in her ghost town of Moadamia are bargaining chips for the rebel Free Syrian Army, which refuses to relinquish control of the area long enough for humanitarian groups to distribute aid. For these children of war every aspect of their life has been diminished, or stolen.
Rawan was just eight years old when she died last week. The cause of death: her uterus ruptured during sexual intercourse with her 40-year-old husband. It was their wedding night in northwestern Yemen. How do we stop child marriage?