Source: Save the Children
From progress on ending child marriage and corporal punishment to giving children the floor at the COP27 climate summit, here are 10 positive changes for children that happened in 2022:
1) Progress to end child marriage in Zimbabwe and Senegal
The Zimbabwe Marriages Act came into law in May, outlawing child marriage. This followed a decade of advocacy and campaigning from Save the Children and a broader Child Rights Coalition. As part of this advocacy work, Save the Children facilitated public hearings between children and policy makers, giving children the opportunity to get their voices heard.
Meanwhile, the government of Senegal introduced its National Action Plan for the Abandonment of Child Marriage in Senegal, thanks to advocacy efforts from Save the Children and other child rights groups.
2) Progress on outlawing corporal punishment
Zambia and Mauritius banned corporal punishment in all settings of children’s lives, providing nearly 10 million children with legal protection from violent punishment, sending a clear message that no level of violence in child raising can be accepted.
Cuba banned corporal punishment in the home and alternative care. Kenya also introduced The Children Act 2022
3) COP27: Children’s rights brought to the table in climate change negotiations
For the first time, countries formally recognised children as agents of change in addressing and responding to the climate crisis and agreed that governments should include children in the design and implementation of climate-related policies -a huge step in recognising the climate crisis as a child rights crisis.
Save the Children supported 10 children to attend the conference from Egypt, including 12-year old Mustafa, from Minya on the western bank of the Nile River in Egypt, who said that increasingly heavy rains have caused flooding and power outages that sometimes mean he cannot go to school or study. Speaking at an event at the COP27 summit he said: “ I didn’t cause the climate crisis. I never built a factory, I never bought a car, I never polluted the environment.”
4) Protection from explosive weapons
In November, 82 states, including over two-thirds of NATO member states and two of the top 10 largest world militaries, officially endorsed the Political Declaration on the Protection of Civilians from the Use of Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas tht aims to “restrict” and “refrain” from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and it cites the particular vulnerabilities of children.
James Denselow, Head of Conflict at Save the Children UK, said: “Children disproportionately suffer the consequences of today’s armed conflicts as city centres are turned into battlefields. This is a significant step forward to stop the war on children, but the declaration will mean nothing without robust, urgent implementation.”
5) Return home for hundreds of children stuck in North East Syria camps
Repatriations of foreign children who have been stuck for years in unsafe, unsanitary camps in North East Syria has increased three-fold over the past six months, showing increased will from the international community to bring children home. From June to November, 411 children and women returned home from the camps housing people displaced since the collapse of ISIS, nearly the same number as those who were repatriated between January 2021 and May 2022. Overall there was a 60% increase in children repatriated from the camps this year.
In March this year, Save the Children warned that it could take 30 years to return foreign children unless repatriations were sped up.
6) Life-saving aid finally gets to Tigray, Ethiopia
In November, Save the Children in Ethiopia was able to deliver aid into Tigray for the first time in over a year thanks to a peace agreement. With hundreds of thousands of people facing catastrophic levels of hunger, and 13 million people in need across Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions of northern Ethiopia, this was urgently needed. However, while humanitarian access has improved aid delivery, challenges remain.
7) Social safety nets and rights for people with disabilities in Nigeria
The House of Assembly in Zamfara State, northwest Nigeria, passed the Social Protection Bill and the Disability Bill earlier this year. This Social Protection Bill guarantees the right to social safety nets for the poor and most vulnerable. The Disability Bill safeguards all people with disabilities, including children, from all forms of violence, discrimination, and abuse and promotes access to equal opportunities in life, partly through the creation of a commission for people with disabilities. People with disabilities can also now apply for government support.
8) Landmark commitment to end FGM and child marriage from a remote community in Sudan
A community in a remote area of the Red Sea mountains in Sudan pledged to end Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) and child marriage – the first community in this area to do so. Fatima, a midwife, explained why she was motivated to support the community’s decision after seeing the harmful effects of the traditional practices:
” In my work, I have seen the consequences of FGM/C, such as heavy bleeding, severe pain, birth complications and at worst, even death. In our area, this procedure has been done to girls as young as two years old.”
In 2020, Sudan criminalized all forms of FGM/C. However, it requires very close community engagement and follow-up to ensure the implementation of this law. Child marriage is still legal in Sudan, and combating this is one of Save the Children Sudan’s key aims.
9) Tackling COVID disinformation in Nepal
An incredible 90% of audiences that engaged with audio game ‘Get Vaxed’, developed by Save the Children in Nepal and technology partner VIAMO, pledged to tackle rumours and misinformation and to share only fact-based messages about COVID-19 vaccines. The game, which reached more than 30,000 people in the first week of its launch, encourages people to get vaccinated so that communities can get back on their feet after the pandemic.
10) Wins for child participation in Ethiopia, Guatemala and at the African Union
The government of Ethiopia has established a National Children’s Parliament: a space for children between 10 and 18 to discuss issues that affect them with national leaders. This historic move will give children in Ethiopia more opportunities to participate in the democratic process, expressing their concerns and demanding their rights.
At the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC), Save the Children supported children from Somalia, Mozambique and South Sudan to participate in an open session, highlighting how they have been affected by armed conflict. AU PSC has now committed to engaging children in future sessions.
Meanwhile in Guatemala to commemorate the Day of the Girl, the President of the Commission for Children and Family from the Guatemalan Congress, with the support of Save the Children, established a National Girls’ Parliament. This saw 85 girls from 18 departments across the country gather to discuss the challenges they face in their daily lives. Save the Children invited three indigenous girls from rural remote communities to express their concerns about the climate crisis and inequality as part of the organisation’s Generation Hope campaign.
Save the Children works in 120 countries across the world. The organisation responds to emergencies and works with children and their communities to ensure they survive, learn and are protected.
Save the Children NZ currently supports international programmes in Fiji, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Laos, Nepal, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. Areas of work include child protection, education and literacy, disaster risk reduction, and alleviating child poverty.