[UN-NGO] The United Nations’ (UN) Universal Children’s Day was established in 1954 and is celebrated each year on November 20. On this date in 1959, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). They made a commitment to protect the rights of every child within their jurisdiction, and to be held accountable for their failures to do so.
Yet, today, almost 60 years after establishing Universal Children’s Day and more than twenty years after signing and ratifying CRC, major challenges must be addressed if the Millennium Development Goals which are vital to children’s health and well-being and the realization of children’s rights are to be achieved by 2015.
The violation of children’s rights begins at their birth. Inadequate infrastructure, low awareness among parents, the cost of obtaining a birth certificate and discrimination based on gender and ethnicity all contribute to this reality. The Convention states that a child shall be registered immediately and shall have the right from birth to a name and nationality. A birth certificate is the first step in ensuring that all children have a legal existence and rights. It facilitates access to education and health care; protects against child labour and early marriage; and makes it easier to fight abuse and child trafficking.
A birth certificate and a legal identification card are especially important for girls where unequal access to education and healthcare is a persistent problem. If a girl cannot prove that she is still a child, she is more vulnerable to being forced into early marriage, servitude or prostitution.
The right to education is also clearly stated in the CRC. Girls along with women still comprise the majority of the world’s illiterate. More attention must be given to gender equality at school so that girls are safe and can remain in school.
Children’s rights are also routinely violated through various forms of child labour. The most vulnerable of all domestic workers are children who often face abuse, exploitation and multiple other forms of violence with little or no access to the justice system. Child domestic workers, of which 90% are girls, often work 12-18 hours per day to supplement their families’ income. As a result of living in poverty, many girls are forced into situations of child labour to ensure their survival. Domestic services are estimated to be the single largest category of employment for girls under the age of sixteen. Because girls also suffer from many intersecting forms of discriminated related to age, gender, level of education, isolation and the social group to which they belong, they are often deprived of their education and placed at risk of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, which in turn increases their vulnerability to early pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS.
Migrant child workers are even more vulnerable because they often depend on their employers for food and housing. Added forms of violence are withholding personal documents, work permits, passports and visas, especially in those countries where protection of the rights of migrants is often neglected or non-existent.
Once again, Universal Children’s Day is a reminder that each of us can do something. It is a call to all nations and to all people to do what they can.
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