Every child has the right to a childhood – a time in life to learn, play, grow, develop, and feel safe and protected. But not every child is able to realise this right. Despite progress, it is still not a fair world for children – the circumstances of one’s birth continue to define the lives of children.
Lost childhoods are a result of choices that exclude particular groups of children by design or neglect. Millions of children have their childhoods cut short because of who they are and where they live. We are at a crucial juncture; and we can turn the tide for children in India.
The story behind ‘Stolen Childhood’
For at least 700 million children worldwide – and perhaps hundreds of millions more – childhood has ended too soon. The major reasons included poor health, conflict, extreme violence, child marriage, early pregnancy, malnutrition, exclusion from education and child labour.
Save the Children’s new report ‘Stolen Childhood’ – the first in an annual series – takes a hard look at the events that rob children of their childhoods. These “childhood enders” are a reflection on the bleak future that beholds millions of children; an equally harsh reality of society and nations failing their children.
In commemoration of International Children’s Day, Save the Children is launching a unique index exploring the major reasons why childhood comes to an early end. The End of Childhood Index focuses on a set of life-changing events that signal the disruption of childhood. It ranks 172 countries based on where childhood is most intact and where it is most eroded. It shows which countries are succeeding, and failing, to provide conditions that nurture and protect their youngest citizens.
India ranking against the global odds
While India bears a large share of the world’s burden, India has also witnessed a massive momentum in pitching development high on political map including human development. The initiatives from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (save girls, educate girls), Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) have helped put spotlight on the issue of girl child and sanitation.
The momentum must continue to tackle the magnitude of the problem.
A quick glance at the report reveals:
- India is ranked 116 of 172 countries on End of Childhood Index
- 20% of world’s under-5 deaths occur in India numbering to 1.2 million children.
- With One in three children stunted, India leads the world’s burden of malnourished children
- At 8.2 million, India has the largest number of child labourers under the age 14 in the world
- Half of all 17 million adolescent births occur in just seven countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the United States.
At the end of 2015, the world leaders took a pledge to leave no one behind and the promise must be upheld. Only if India leads the change in guaranteeing every last child the childhood they deserve, will the world realise its potential to transform the lives of millions of children across the world.
– Ms Pragya Vats is head of campaigns for Save the Children, a non-profit that works for the rights, education and protection of the children.
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