From lack of access to education to protection from harm to clean water and basic sanitation, millions of children face barriers that prevent them from realizing their full potential.
Over 190 countries have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – making it the most widely adopted human rights treaty in history. But just because this treaty exists doesn't mean that children's rights are always upheld. That's why Plan International is dedicated to advancing children's rights and equality for girls.
As an independent global organization, we have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 85 years and are now active in more than 75 countries. Here are seven violations of children's rights.
1. Child and forced marriage
- Nearly every three seconds, a girl under 18 is married.
- Each year, 12 million girls are married by their 18th birthday.
- 40% of young women (20-24) in developing countries were married before the age of 18
Child and forced marriage deny girls their rights, often forcing them to drop out of school, exposing them to violence (sexual, physical and emotional) and driving them into experiences that their young minds and bodies are not ready for, like motherhood.
SEE ALSO: 5 ways to end child marriage
2. Child labour
In the world's poorest countries, millions of children (approximately 1 in 4) are engaged in hazardous and exploitative child labour that is harmful to their health and development. Child labour includes sex trafficking, domestic servitude, hard physical work such as farming or mining, and sweatshop labour.
Child labour violates children's rights to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with a child's education and overall development.
3. Lack of access to education
An estimated 263 million children and youth worldwide are currently out of school, including approximately 130 million girls, with the highest proportion aged 15-17.
Every child has the right to an education. Education is one of the most powerful tools in breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring children are empowered to reach their full potential.
Many girls face a unique set of barriers that prevent them from achieving an education, including long distances to school, lack of safe washrooms, early pregnancy and gender norms that don't value girls' education.
4. Child Soldiers
Children are more likely to become child soldiers if they are separated from their families, displaced from their homes or live in conflict areas. These children are forced to endure the horrors of warfare. This reality robs them of their childhoods and has serious long-term effects on their mental and emotional development.
5. Lack of access to clean water
Two billion people use contaminated drinking water, and more than twice as many lack safe sanitation such as toilets. Without these basics, the lives of millions of children are at risk.
Water- and sanitation-related diseases are one of the leading causes of death for children under five. Every day, over 800 children die from preventable diseases caused by unsafe water and a lack of sanitation and hygiene.
6. Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is defined as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."
At least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM. Female Genital Mutilation is a fundamental violation of girls' rights to health, to be free from violence, to life and physical integrity, and to be free from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The practice happens in many parts of the world and continues because of long-held customs.
7. Lack of access to health care
Every child has the right to quality health care. However, 5 million children under the age of five died in 2020, with the leading causes being preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria. Many of these children could have lived with access to quality health care.
Lack of access to health care also contributes to girls dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls 15 - 19 globally.
Child rights during a global pandemic
Children and their well-being are at the center of everything we do, and although children are less impacted by COVID-19 than adults, the pandemic is devastatingly affecting their lives. Widespread income loss and economic insecurity will likely increase rates of child labour, sexual exploitation, teenage pregnancy and child marriage. Research shows that an increase in stress on families increases the risk of family violence. Furthermore, closures due to COVID-19 are limiting access to essential services that protect vulnerable children from abuse.
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