Children’s Rights in Haiti

Yamileh M. Theodore

Sponsor Servicing Coordinator

Save the Children in Haiti

December 27, 2018

The idea of children’s rights is quite utopian to a child’s mind, but when summarized and explained in a way children can understand, it becomes more tangible.

Being conscious about this, the sponsorship team in Haiti met with governmental groups such as the Dessalines City Hall, departments related to social well-being and other local partners. Our goal was to have children’s participation in celebrating Universal Children’s Day last November, and help them reflect on their rights as children. We wanted to do something special where the children themselves would be the promoters of their rights within the community. Involving local groups and stakeholders was important too, in order to ensure community members feel an ownership of the programs we help start for children, and to prepare them to manage activities on their own one day and ensure sustainability of our work.

Children advocating for their rights as children on Universal Children’s Day.

The children prepared for weeks for the celebration. With their friends, they learned about children’s rights at school, engaged in group discussions and shared stories and drawings that helped them reflect on what their rights are. For example, what education did they have a right to as children? They came to see that they not only had the right to attend a good school, but also the right to eat healthy meals, to play and enjoy their time as children, to not fear physical punishment or abuse, and the right to grow up in a clean environment.

Over 70 schools and 12 youth clubs participated. During the grand celebration, students presented their thoughts, through drawings, posters and creative writing, with the support of Save the Children staff.

Davidson, a 9-year-old fourth grade student, was one eager participant. He found himself inspired by a little girl from his neighborhood who worked as a restavèk, a child domestic worker who goes to school in the afternoon, only after the day’s work is finished. He said until learning about children’s rights, he thought it was normal for her to be in that position, since she was orphan.

Now, he sees that little girl is a victim. “People don’t give restavèk children enough food to eat, they don’t let them sleep early even though they are the ones to wake up first in the morning.’’ He explained, “Thanks to Save the Children now I know that even children in restavèk must have the right to sleep, to go to school and the right to have three meals a day.”

Children dancing during Universal Children’s Day celebrations.

By advocating for children’s rights like access to school and health services, sponsorship is helping to raise awareness and shift local cultures to see these kinds of traditional practices as harmful to society.

Dessalines is really grateful for sponsors like you because many children like Davidson now know their rights as a child and will advocate to help parents, teachers and other community members to respect them. Today, they know that they can be anything they want when they grow up, thanks to your continuous support!

What is your understanding of children’s rights? How are they different from the rights of adults? How do they need extra protection? Visit SavetheChildren.org today to learn more about how you can help us advocate for the rights of children!

Analia, 3, sits with a Save the Children early childhood specialist at her home in California. Photo credit: Tamar Levine / Save the Children, Nov 2017.

The Gift of Learning Never Stops Giving

While many young U.S. children are spending this time of year gluing googly eyes to construction-paper snowflakes or listening to stories of sugar plum fairies and polar bear trails, far too many more children are surrounded by silence.

The silence of poverty is deafening. For the 15 million children living in poverty, playtime and early learning activities like reading, singing, arts & crafts and dress-up are not necessarily a way of life. Instead, their homes are silent, vacant of sing-songy tunes that teach children how to count and absent of artwork outlining basic shapes and symbols.

In 2006, Save the Children created Early Steps to School Success, which aims to ensure that all U.S. children, including those from remote, under-served areas, have the best chance for success in school and in life. Thanks to the generous support of our donors, we help the nation’s most vulnerable children become ready for kindergarten and beyond. Here, a story of 3-year-old Analia and how, thanks to you, a lifetime of change is possible.

Analia makes her way to her family’s small vegetable garden with her mother, Sandra, as an abundance of red jalapeños begin to blossom. They’re not yet ripe for picking, but the Central Valley California toddler is more than ready to tell her mom what color they are, and count the number that are growing.

At first glance, the garden visit may seem like a moment for Sandra to gauge whether they can include the jalapeños in a dish on the family’s upcoming dinner menu. It is, in part, but more importantly, it becomes an opportunity for Analia to learn more about the world around her – how the vegetables need the sun and rain to grow, how the peppers and the pepper plants smell and feel to the touch, and yes, how they will one day become a zesty part of one of the family’s future meals.

The afternoon lesson is one of many brain-building opportunities Sandra includes in Analia’s day-to-day life. While the mother of two does everyday activities around the house, like washing the dishes or preparing dinner, she has Analia name the types of dishes they’re putting away, or smell and touch the different ingredients that are coming together to make the evening meal.

“Sandra is really great about plugging Analia into her daily routines. She draws her in and keeps the language going,” said early childhood specialist Virginia, who has been visiting Sandra and family since before Analia was born. “The idea is to engage parents and children, and to give the parents the confidence that they have what it takes to be their child’s first teacher.”

Virginia conducts family home visits as part of Save the Children’s Early Steps to School Success program, a rare family resource in Sandra and Analia’s rural community in central California, which struggles with limited services, poverty and unemployment.

Through such visits, parents like Sandra are equipped with the skills – and brain-building activities – to successfully support their children’s development. And as a child grows, the program offers book exchanges and parent-child groups, laying a foundation of language and literacy skills for the child, and opportunities to develop socially and emotionally with their peers.

With limited family in the area, the parent-child group has helped Sandra build further connections in the community, as well. It has also given her opportunities to strengthen her leadership skills, as she has started to plan and run some of the group’s activities.

“I’ve seen a big growth with Sandra,” said Virginia. “She’s a lot more confident in herself.”

Sandra and Analia’s community also has a small library with very limited hours, but Virginia, through the Early Steps book exchange program, helps them constantly update their home library, strengthening Analia’s early reading skills.

Book by book, from garden visit to the next daily learning opportunity, Analia will be well prepared for preschool and beyond.

 

You can help provide children in the U.S. with the educational tools they need to start learning at a young age. Your year-end gift in support of early childhood development will not only mean a child gets to unwrap a book, box of crayons or colorful puzzle this holiday season, it means they will have a chance at a brighter future.

To learn more about the work Save the Children has done to support the power of playtime, visit our website.

YOUR SUPPORT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES IN NEED AROUND THE WORLD. MAKE A DONATION TODAY!

 

 

Nar Hari’s Child Club

Nimma Adhikari

Quality Communications Coordinator

Save the Children in Nepal-Bhutan

December 17, 2018

A couple of months back I was visiting the schools of Ganeshpur, one of the many communities in Kapilvastu district, where Save the Children works in Nepal. In their small village, most live in extreme poverty, earning their living by farming but struggling to make enough to support their families.

I had the opportunity to meet a young boy, Nar Hari, 16 year old and in eleventh grade, follow him to his school and learn from him how Save the Children’s sponsorship program was helping him and his friends. I learned this was not only through school, but through many other ways that he and the others hadn’t thought possible.

Since 2009, Save the Children’s sponsorship program has worked with communities in Kapilvastu to create safe and healthy environments in schools and at homes for children so they can learn and grow like every other child.

In order to ensure our programs solve the biggest challenges children and communities face, and ensure sustainability of our work, Save the Children in Nepal partners with a local NGO called Kalika to help organize and run our programs. Nar Hari remembers when he started seeing these visitors at his school, “We had visitors from Kalika who would come to teach us things that were completely new to us.”

Nar Hari posing in front of the wall magazine he created with the child club.

He had learned through sponsorship and Kalika staff visiting his school that there was a new opportunity where he would be able to learn with his friends and develop important leadership and life skills, like those related to health and hygiene, at club with his friends outside of school. He decided to join.

At the Save the Children supported child clubs, students can learn about how to wash their hands and why handwashing is so important to help prevent the spread of diseases. Before Save the Children started health programs like the child club, children would not wash their hands before eating or would only use water with no soap, making them sick all the time.

Nar Hari also told me about how he and his fellow students started interacting with teachers in class more often after Kalika and Save the Children started coming. When he was younger, corporal punishment was still used in the classroom, and generally teachers always seemed angry with them. Today, teachers have learned how to be more patient with their students, and how to set a more kind and welcome tone in the classroom. This is due to teacher trainings offered through sponsorship, that show teachers new child-friendly methods to create engaging and active lessons in class, that don’t feel intimidating or put too much pressure on students.

Now everyone is healthier, and children both can and want to come to school more.

After learning those first important lessons, Nar Hari and his friends set to work to continue spreading these important health messages to other children and families in their community.

They decided to write a play that would make people understand how bad hygiene and sanitation practices could lead to many diseases – diseases that could spread between people and even to other food items in their households.

Nar Hari working on a school science project with friends.

“We would write scripts for awareness dramas and our facilitator from Kalika would review them and help us improvise.”

He and his friends also created a wall magazine to spread more useful messages to their peers, a kind of periodical run on a notice board with articles, drawings, poems and other creative writing from Nar Hari and his fellow club members.

With a little support from Save the Children, Nar Hari’s child club and many others in Nepal are working hard to cascade good health practices from one home to the next. They also recently were able to show local families how to construct toilets using whatever local resources are available, whereas before there were hardly any toilets near homes or in the community.

Nar Hari attributes the skills he has developed as a young adult to his involvement in the child club. “Conversing with people, differentiating right from wrong and being able to discuss in front of other people as well – this is what Save the Children gave me,” he says.

Child clubs are formed for children ages 10 – 18 to come together to learn about children’s rights, health and personal hygiene, and develop important life skills like how to be a good leader. Many thanks to our sponsors, all the way from Nepal!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

 

Ahmed Starts a Business

Mr. Helmy

Community Development Association Coordinator

Save the Children in Egypt

December 10, 2018

Ahmed, 15 years old, lives in the rural farming community of Assuit in Abnoub, Egypt. His family consists of his father, mother and two siblings, Mahmoud and Sara. As with most of the local families living in Ahmed’s low-income community, his father pressured him to drop out of school to help support their family’s basic needs. Without another resource to support their livelihood, their family wouldn’t be able to afford food or clothing.

“My father asked me to quit school. Obeying his wish, I started working, as he does, as a local worker, leaving all of my dreams behind,” Ahmed remembered. His father made a small income by knocking down walls or parts of houses prior to construction projects.

Many children in Assuit feel this threat to continuing their education, and suspend their ambitions.

Through a Save the Children volunteer working in his community, I heard about Ahmed’s situation. I visited Ahmed’s house and urged his father to let his son continue his education. I explained that through our program, Ahmed could learn how to obtain a small loan and how to start his own business project. He could participate over the summer, learn how to earn money and still return to school at the start of the next academic year. Though he refused at the beginning, I was able to convince Ahmed’s father to enroll him in our adolescent development program.

Ahmed with his brother Mohamed and cousin Mahmoud proudly sitting on their very own plot of land.

Our work aims to build teens’ life skills, by providing career counseling and livelihood activities so they can explore labor and local market needs and be prepared to make informed career choices. They also learn how to develop projects using local resources. Through these activities, adolescents are given the chance to play an active role in their society. Without them, they would have had no career options except to follow in the footsteps of their parents, finding work in low-paying local labor.

“I still remember how helpless I was before Mr. Helmy’s visit. All I knew was that I would end up with a chisel and a hammer just like my father,” said Ahmed.

Ahmed started participating in our Tomohaty program, meaning “Ambitions” in Arabic, in May of 2017. He learned how to start, manage and finance his own start-up business. He even motivated his brother and cousin, Mahmoud, to join, who was also in a similar situation with his own hardworking father, hungry family and personal desire to finish his education.

Together through the program they were able to receive a loan to rent a small plot of land. The boys started cultivating a farm with mulukhiyah, a vegetable plant common in Middle Eastern countries and a main component of traditional dishes in the area. The farming skills they already had learned from their grandfather, so now with the loan and the skills learned on how to manage their expenses and goals, they were ready to try something new.

By the end of the summer, they were able to successfully grow three harvests of the crop to sell, covering all of their expenses and helping their families.

Ahmed learned how to manage a business project through sponsorship.

“I am now self-confident. I feel like I’m able to reshape my future. I feel powerful.” said Ahmed proudly.

With the extra money made over the summer, Ahmed was able to return to school. Today, his next big dream is to finish high school.

Without sponsors, many children would remain as Ahmed was before sponsorship, deprived of any ambition, dreams, hopes or goals. “One of the reasons I feel proud of being part of Save the Children is our ability to create new opportunities for children.” said Ahmed, with a worldly understanding beyond his years.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

From Bungoma to Paris: Local Citizen Engagement Through the Addis Tax Initiative

Written by Andrew Wainer, Director, Policy Research at Save the Children

The Addis Tax Initiative (ATI) was launched in 2015 in Ethiopia with developing nations as key signatories, but – like other global agreements – it faces challenges translating global dialogue in Berlin, New York and Paris to better tax policy in Nairobi, Monrovia and Tbilisi.

This challenge to operationalize the ATI is daunting, but national-level tax policy and administration is only part of the solution for transforming tax into an engine for financing well-being in developing countries. 

Services including health and education are delivered to citizens at the local level and tax and spending at the sub-national level is where most citizens are impacted by fiscal policy that is either fair or regressive.

To ground its commitment of increased, transparent, and accountable DRM, the ATI is monitoring how developing country governments are increasing domestic revenue for inclusive development. But, so far, analysis of sub-national level domestic resource mobilization (DRM) is largely absent from this analysis. 

The role of sub-national tax authorities is certainly difficult to track, but, to be relevant to the citizens’ ground truth, the should ATI integrate local tax policy and administration.

Bungoma County, Kenya

Even at the national level in Kenya, and other signatory counties, the ATI requires further understanding and integration – it’s not yet well-understood by many fiscal policymakers and implementers. There is a need for increased ownership at the national level.

But Save the Children, working with civil society, small business groups, and county assemblies on DRM in Bungoma County, Kenya, has found that citizens are best able to educate and influence policymakers – using the Addis Tax Initiative banner – at the local level.

Revenue generation capacity at the county level in Kenya remains low, with some reports that it is actually decreasing, even after the country’s 2010 devolution law. But in Bungoma County, motivated citizen groups are filling the gap, helping shape tax policy where local government capacity is low.

Civil society can be helpful intermediaries on local level DRM to both increase tax compliance and contribute to tax policy accountability, transparency, and inclusiveness.

Specifically, Save the Children is working with the Bungoma County Child Rights Network (BCCRN), small and micro-entrepreneurs (including women-owned businesses) and the local country assembly to improve local tax collection, making it more transparent, accountable, and pro-poor. It’s already paying dividends in increased tax compliance.

In Bungoma, the main sources of local revenue include business permits and market fees. The BCCRN started with these existing tax laws, working to increase revenue activities through analysis, advocacy, and stakeholder education, including on the Addis Tax Initiative.

The result is lower market fees, creating rates that are less onerous for small-business owners with slim profit margins, and, at the same time, expanding tax compliance among these groups as taxes are reduced to rates they are better able to pay. Because taxpayers are involved in the policy discussions they are also more bought-in to the policies and apt to comply with tax regulations they played a part in shaping.

This was accompanied with increasing rates on local supermarkets, who enjoyed large profit margins and were undertaxed, according to local citizen analysis. These civil society proposals were taken up by the local county assembly.

The ATI and Progress on DRM in Kenya

Civil society in Bungoma County is just getting started with tax policy advocacy, but Kenya, at all levels, is showing signs of progress. Further training could help civil society to partner with local government to enhance property taxes – another source of local revenue that is badly underutilized in Kenya.

And while civil society can support local tax authorities “from below” there is also a need for assistance from and alignment with national tax bodies “from above” such as the Kenya Revenue Authority. County level tax officials need national guidance on revenue generation strategies and medium- and long-term tax policy plans.

To maintain progress, the Kenya government and other ATI stakeholders should make advancements in two areas:

  • Support local civil society. Civil society groups are crucial intermediaries between local government and citizens. Trusted local organizations can build trust and participation between local tax collection authorities and tax payers, improving tax compliance, fairness, and accountability.
  • Support for sub-national DRM. Most citizens encounter the impacts of taxing and spending at the local level. Increasing domestic revenues at this level can enhance budgets for local public service delivery. ATI should include sub-national domestic resource mobilization into its mandate, analysis and goals.

Civil society is already making a difference for tax policy and administration. The ATI would be wise to tap into this local source of change to ensure that its global discussions make a difference at the community level.

 

 

 

Samantha Melody’s Love for Learning


Miguel Angel Corpa Cespedes

Sponsorship Assistant

Save the Children in Bolivia

December 3, 2018

Meet Samantha Melody, a lively and happy third grader from Cochabamba, Bolivia. Who could imagine that just a few months ago, Samantha Melody was a very shy girl who didn’t have any friends in school, mainly a result of her difficulty pronouncing words and organizing her thoughts to be able to communicate her feelings to others.

Most children like Samantha Melody need encouragement to start opening up and be confident in social situations at school or in the classroom. However, in the past teaching methods in Bolivia had always been based on repetition and rote memorization. As a result, lessons were not fun for students – leaving them feeling bored and unmotivated to participate during school.

To help address this need, Save the Children trained teachers at Samantha Melody’s school on new teaching methodologies that not only make sure children learn in fun, interactive and innovative ways, but also take into consideration their emotions and feelings.

8-year-old Samantha Melody (center) with friends Yuliet and Gissel Jazmine.

Ana Maria, her teacher, has worked closely with Samantha Melody since the start of the school year. She explains, “Our work starts by giving our students the necessary encouragement, kind words and patience. All of this is the key for their success.” She adds, “There isn’t any better satisfaction when a student like Samantha Melody starts learning and enjoys it.”

After participating in these trainings, Ana Maria worked hard to apply Save the Children’s literacy strategy in her classroom to motivate Samantha Melody and other struggling learners to enjoy reading. Through sponsorship, teachers learn to work with their students in participatory and game-like activities, like using reading aloud sessions and dramatizing the stories they read in class to make the books come to life, for example by using role play with the students or acting out characters’ voices in the story themselves. Reading cards are another tool provided by Save the Children, an exercise allowing children to pull important information from the story and write it on a card to deepen their understanding of the story and lesson.

These new approaches to teaching help children develop a love for learning and the necessary cognitive skills required to interpret what they read or hear, and to discuss it with their peers. All of this helped Samantha Melody develop her communication skills to be able to express herself with confidence.

After just a few months, this hard work has paid off. Today we find a more outgoing Samantha Melody who enjoys going to school every day. She not only has been able to make friends but also has started to love reading. She shares “I like the stories we read like The Four Corners of the Planet.”

Samantha Melody loves reading stories on her own and at school with her teacher and classmates.

Once she was able to finish her first few stories on her own, she was motivated to read more and more. As her skills improved, she was able to understand the words and began visualizing the fantasy worlds from her books with her imagination. She began to participate more and more in class. Samantha Melody concludes with a huge smile in her face, “I like being able to act, read stories and tell stories to my friends.”

What was the first book you remember really enjoying? Sharing a favorite story with your sponsored child is a great way to get to know them through letter writing. Consider writing a letter to your sponsored child today by visiting your online account, Sponsor.SavetheChildren.org/MyAccount

Save the Children Team in Yemen Recognized for Family Planning Program Achievements in a Humanitarian Setting

Written by Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children

Yemen is currently experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. More than two-thirds of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, with one-third in acute need. Of the 22.2 million people in need, more than five million are women of reproductive age, including an estimated half a million pregnant women. Before the current crisis escalated in March 2015, the average fertility rate was four children per woman and the lifetime risk of maternal death was one in sixty. In only 30 other countries do women face a greater chance of dying due to complications of pregnancy or during childbirth. Access to family planning is limited with only 20 percent of women using a modern contraceptive method and a high unmet need for contraception of 33 percent.

In the dire context in Yemen, Save the Children staff work tirelessly to support children and their families, and we are so pleased that our family planning team that includes was recognized for the work they do in the face of tremendous adversity. At the International Conference on Family Planning, our Yemen team was awarded an Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning Award for their “significant contributions to the family planning field.”

Since the beginning of 2013, and through the escalation of the crisis, our reproductive health program has reached nearly 60,000 new family planning users through support to 16 health facilities in Hodeida and Lahj Governorates through funding from private foundation. The program has also expanded access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (intrauterine devices and implants) that are more effective than other methods and are often a good choice in humanitarian settings where supply chains may be disrupted. This high quality work was leveraged to secure a new two-year award for Save the Children from the U.S. Agency for International Development to strengthen family planning services in Yemen.

In addition to the recognition of our Yemen team, other Save the Children teams from Egypt humanitarian response for Urban Refugees in Cairo and Mali were recognized for their excellent work by winning “best poster” awards during the conference. Our submission was one of the twelve (out of 325 applications) named a finalist of the Quality Innovation Challenge sponsored by the Packard Foundation for a concept to pilot a digital, interactive contraceptive decision-making tool for young people in acute humanitarian emergencies in Somalia and Yemen. Through 41 posters and presentations, our staff demonstrated the positive impact our family planning programs have on the lives of children, adolescent girls, women and their families around the globe.

To learn more about how family planning saves lives and our presence at the International Conference on Family Planning, click here.