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Defining child poverty

The far-reaching benefits of a common, multi-dimensional definition of child poverty

The issue of defining child poverty is a surprisingly knotty one. It is a challenge not made easier because the concept of poverty is also an emotive one. Conventionally it has demanded a consideration of financial means, but definitions have only recently begun to look more broadly at available resources, services and freedoms. This is a vital step forwards since poverty is about much more than a lack of income. Definitions need to consider the extent to which people’s basic needs are below their means, whether people have access to a variety of fundamental services, such as rudimentary healthcare and education, and the extent to which they enjoy personal and cultural freedom. Having access to a reliable electricity supply is another fundamental factor.

Future prospects, freedoms and aspirations

Moreover, researchers need to assess employment prospects and whether people have access to meaningful opportunities for work. There is also the question of the level of social protection and support available, and the stability of the local community. However, beyond economic factors, a definition of poverty needs to encompass political circumstances, for example, the extent to which people enjoy social, religious and gender specific freedoms. To what extent do they feel able to speak out for themselves and negotiate with representatives of those in authority? Additionally, what aspirations do people living in poverty hold dear?

The arbitrary nature of a calculated poverty line

Charities and pressure groups still tend to cite a seemingly arbitrary poverty line. This is an estimated economic point below which it is considered impossible to obtain necessities for everyday living. The numbers published, of course, amount to something of a moveable feast. Originally, in the early 1990s a dollar a day became a yardstick by which global poverty could be measured. Subsequent official attempts to update this definition have led to the publication of the latest headline figure of just over two dollars a day. One concern is that definitions like these are based on one currency and therefore the economy of one nation, the relative value of which is constantly fluctuating because of a vastly complex web of domestic and global factors. This makes the processes of formally estimating poverty levels based on the value of the dollar seem less helpful.

Issues arising from a headline figure

Despite some impressive research in the formulation processes, the headline figure unintentionally invites a rather lazy response from people and organisations alike, because by its nature it relies on a very specific figure without conveying any simultaneous insight into personal lifestyles and living conditions. In September 2022 The World Bank revised and republished its monetary quantification of abject poverty. It categorically establishes its ‘new, extreme poverty line’ at $2.15. This crudely means that anyone living on less than this amount of money spends their life in extreme poverty.

In total the World Bank estimates that 648 million people, or about a twelfth of the world’s population, live at this level. Nonetheless this stark, official calculation begs an important question. What about all those people who live on $2.16 a day, or $2.17, etc. What about the hundreds of millions more who live on or just below $3 a day? They would in theory be fifty percent wealthier than their counterparts who find themselves just below the new extreme poverty line. Yet does an extra dollar a day make all the difference? Moreover, the World Bank makes deductions based on the new poverty line. For example, in a bullish statement it lauds trends in poverty reduction made since 1990: ‘the world has made impressive progress in reducing poverty’.

A multi-dimensional approach to defining poverty

The World Bank, however, does acknowledge the importance of a multi-dimensional approach to defining poverty. It devotes a good deal of space and energy into commending an overarching assessment. So, it seems disappointing that the bank insists on headlining with a misleadingly precise-sounding monetary value, simply supplying eighteen links to other pages where important factors and analyses are cited. Many readers would simply not invest the time to look beyond the headline figure. Essentially, defining poverty needs to prioritise and embrace consistent presentation, emphasis and, above all, evidence-based information.

What makes poverty statistics influential?

Suffice to say that whatever poverty line figure is put forwards, the methodology produces a very low income value. However, any headline figure, however eye-catching, masks a far more complex set of circumstances. In dismissing such statistical approaches as highly limiting, Don Mathews has neatly pinpointed one reason that poverty statistics enjoy such influence, that is, to justify governments’ financial planning. A baldly statistical emphasis fails to shed light on specific social complexities that contribute to the notion of living standards.

The need for a holistic approach

So, a more holistic approach to defining poverty, and with it child poverty, is preferable. Increasingly, experts have argued that poverty needs to be viewed through the eyes of the people in question. For example, we should be assessing what their aspirations are, and to what extent they consider that they enjoy personal freedoms and rights. It may be a mistaken approach simply to judge situations through western eyes.

In building a robust, multi-dimensional definition of poverty and child poverty, we need to challenge lazy assumptions and expectations. While this is not an easy prospect it is vital in attaining a meaningful definition and the benefits which can arise from it. Moving away from a reliance on headline statistics and sound bite descriptions also requires a concise and embracing verbal explanation. Another hurdle concerns people’s conceptions of poverty relative to their own circumstances and societies. For instance, a child living in poverty in the UK may still look considerably better off than a child who lives in sub-Saharan Africa, simply because of the level and quality of services available from the state.

Another statistical issue: revising figures promptly

UNICEF presents an unequivocal argument that globally speaking, the majority of people in poverty, are children. Their headline figures are shocking: ‘Across the world, about 1 billion children are multidimensionally poor, meaning they lack necessities as basic as nutrition or clean water.’ UNICEF concludes that although a third of the world’s population is made up of children, they comprise up to half of those trying to live on less than $1.90 a day. Of course, this figure clashes with the latest World Bank revision, and such inconsistencies are naturally unhelpful in defining and then devising strategies to reduce poverty. Imposing monetary benchmarks only shifts people in a narrowly statistical sense, but certainly not in terms of their actual circumstances.

A further numerical inconsistency

UNICEF goes on to deduce that 356 million children are presently living in absolute poverty, another socio-economic overarching term which also clashes with the World Bank’s tag. Addressing poverty inconsistently does not change the fact that these children experience the poorest living standards, develop the fewest skills for later life, and earn the lowest wages when they become adults. Moreover, UNICEF starkly presents the bottom line: these poorest children are twice as likely to die than their better off peers. Future collaborative efforts to reduce child poverty would surely benefit from the common use of universally accepted terminology and methodology.

Undoubted progress

UNICEF chairs the Global Coalition To End Child Poverty. It too celebrates the fact that over the past thirty years administrative and co-operative strides forward have been taken to address and reduce child poverty. There are encouraging data, leading to the affirming claim that child poverty has been reduced by over fifty percent since 1990. This statistic means that malnutrition has been reduced, safe drinking water has been made available to many more people, education has been expanded, and fundamental healthcare services have been established alongside better sanitation. Because of this life expectancy is improving in diverse communities, and children may even have improved employment opportunities.

Avoiding complacency

While such progress sounds reassuring, it is vital to remember that huge numbers of children remain in multi-dimensional poverty. Huge disparities persist, and naturally these guarantee that hundreds of millions of the poorest children are being left further behind. Political initiatives like UNICEF’s Sustainable Development Goals are bringing governments together on the international stage to address child poverty. The ultimate, and rightly ambitious, aim is to eradicate multi-dimensional child poverty within the next decade, meaning that children will have what they need not only to survive but to fulfil their potential and hopefully thrive. Achieving that efficiently and effectively would be aided by organisations and governments adopting a consistent, embracing overview, which relies less on statistical headlines and uses uniform terms coherently to reinforce descriptions of personal circumstances.

From War to Poverty and Poverty to War

Conversations on war and poverty are widespread and crucial to understanding the connection between violence and the global poor. The link is undeniable, and there are many reasons why it remains and persists to this day – most notably in the developing world. From the current crisis in Ukraine and the mass displacement of refugees into neighbouring Poland to the ongoing civil unrest in Myanmar and the recruitment of child soldiers from poor backgrounds; there is no shortage of examples where war leads to poverty and poverty to war.

What is somewhat under-discussed however, is how the phenomenon disproportionately impacts the lives of children who find themselves caught in the middle of conflicts. In 2005, the United Nations Security Council set out six violations of children’s rights to be monitored during times of warfare. These are the killing and maiming of children; recruitment of child soldiers; sexual violence against children; child abduction; attacks against schools or hospitals and the denial of humanitarian aid to children[i].

However, whether it’s through the absence of education and sanitation affecting their social and cognitive development, issues relating to malnutrition and poor healthcare stunting their growth or the myriad of problems associated with living as a refugee fleeing warzones; war and conflict continue to produce incidences of poverty that have heavy and lasting impacts on the children involved.

Two Schools of Thought

When discussing war and poverty there are often two thought processes. One views poverty as a consequence of war and conflict, and the other views war and conflict as a product of poverty. Both are true to a point, but what needs to be understood is how one will, for the most part, always exist in conjunction with the other – especially in the context of civil wars.

Such a picture has never been truer than when it comes to child poverty. Children living in poverty are often pushed to desperate ends to produce capital when other means fail them, often turning to crime which can, in some instances, result in violence and warfare – especially in areas where gang culture presides. Whilst this may present an extreme example, it is not uncommon – especially in the epicentre of the War on Drugs in South American countries such as Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela where children from poor backgrounds are recruited as drug mules. If the children in these situations manage to escape, they often suffer severely from drug addiction, preventing social reintegration and maintaining their position of poverty.

On the flip side, children living in areas hit by war often find themselves living in abject poverty either as refugees in a strange land or worse still, continuing to live in a war zone with the daily risk of injury or death.

War and Conflict as a Producer of Poverty

War is indisputably a creator and maintainer of global poverty. Generally speaking, war-affected regions have higher levels of poverty. This is because war damages a community’s infrastructure and institutions; causes the destruction of national and personal assets; fragments communities and their communication networks; and causes the debilitation and deaths of a large proportion of the population[ii]. During times of conflict and war, people lose their houses, their land, and their assets usually utilised to produce capital.

What is often overlooked, however, is how the impacts of war often leave lasting legacies on the populations who experience them. Living in the aftermath of war often proves difficult for many people, especially those in hard-hit areas. Whilst on the macro-level, temporary destruction of capital can be circumvented through long-term investment; the micro-level individual, social and psychological effects can be far harder to subvert, especially for the children of war who are displaced, injured, orphaned, or recruited by militia groups who often suffer with their mental health following resolution[iii]. Evidence suggests that the impacts of conflict on education and health at the individual and household level can still be observed decades after conflict resolution[iv].

The risk posed to children by war is in many ways greater than that posed to other members of a community, with one in ten children globally being affected by armed conflict[v] and one in six living in conflict zones[vi]. This is partly because children haven’t fully developed the cognitive agency to understand imminent threats and do not have the resources to remove themselves from them. As such, they often find themselves either caught up in or controlled by war and conflict because they don’t possess the means to escape.

The risk is further increased, in certain instances, when children are targeted by armed groups. When children are targeted or killed it is often done so as a terror tactic to reaffirm brutality and gain notoriety. It shows that a group is willing to engage the most vulnerable in society to confirm its position in a conflict. However, the result of such targeting is not always to kill but rather to abduct and recruit children to fight in wars. Warring factions often kidnap children as they are more easily manipulated and can be indoctrinated to commit crimes without question[vii].

Poverty as a Producer of War and Conflict

Whilst it is obvious that war reproduces existing poverty trends and creates new ones, it is also more than plausible that poverty produces a set of circumstances that exacerbates divides and produces war and conflict itself. This is especially the case for civil war, a phenomenon largely prominent in the developing world. Research suggests that if you reside in a poorer area, you are more likely to be exposed to, and partake in, violence in civil war[viii]. At the state level, poverty compounds vulnerability to an insurgency by lowering the opportunity cost for the mobilisation of violence[ix]. For example, perceived inequality through high levels of unemployment, low levels of education and social development are often prime motivators for violence and a reason to enact a revolt.

When poor groups revolt, they often rely on voluntary recruits at first. But when voluntary recruits dry up, many turn to forced recruitment. Children can be at the centre of this with some rebel groups forcibly recruiting children from poorer backgrounds to fight – a practice that has been particularly utilised heavily in the civil conflicts taking place in Myanmar and Sierra Leone.

Africa has become the epicentre for violent conflict involving child soldiers[x] with 40% of all child soldiers globally active on the continent[xi]. This number is made even greater when the recruitment of children is not just committed by poor militia groups but also by lower-income nation-states.

In 2004 the government forces of Burundi were found to be forcibly abducting and recruiting child soldiers from the country’s poorest regions[xii]. Boys as young as ten were serving in the armed forces and militia whilst girls of a similar age were being sold into sexual slavery. Even when demobilisation schemes were enforced by UNICEF, many children showed signs of trauma with others expressing concerns about the inadequate rehabilitation preparations[xiii]. This resulted in multiple children re-joining armed groups but this time in the form of non-governmental militia factions where they further suffered the impacts of poverty and violence.

The most important thing to note when discussing the link between poverty and war and conflict is the risk of conflict reoccurrence among poor populations. For those living in poverty, there is a greater chance of conflict reoccurrence than that of more economically advanced areas, especially when insurgent civil wars fail to procure the goal that was set to achieve in the first instance. This is especially true when the already low levels of infrastructure in poorer areas are left without investment following times of conflict, only acting to widen the gap between the rich and the poor in societies.

Violating the UN’s Six Violations

Despite the best efforts of the UN and its partner agencies to tackle the issues associated with child poverty and exploitation in times of conflict, there is still a strong relationship between impoverished children and acts of violence. Whether this is the infliction of violence on poor populations by external actors or the taking-up of arms by the global poor in insurgencies to change the status quo, it still remains a fact that poor children pay the price of war and conflict.


[i] UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. (2013). Children and Armed Conflict. New York: United Nations.

[ii] Justino, P. (2012). War and Poverty: IDS Working Paper. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.

[iii] Catani, C. (2018). Mental health of children living in war zones: a risk and protection perspective. In World Psychiatry 17(1): 104-105.

[iv] Shemyakina, O. (2006). The Effect of Armed Conflict on Accumulation of Schooling: Results from Tajikistan. Berlin. HiCN Working Paper 12, Households in Conflict Network,

[v] Kadir, A. et al. (2019). Effects of armed conflict on child health and development: A systematic review. PLOS ONE 14(2): e0212393,

[vi] Save the Children. (2022). Countries in Conflict.

[vii] Kishi, R. (2015). The Targeting of Children in Conflict Zones, Part 1: General Trends. ACLED:

[viii] Mercier, M. et al. (2020). Violence exposure and poverty: Evidence from the Burundi civil war. in Journal of Comparative Economics 48(4). p. 822-840.

[ix] Marks, Z. (2016). Conflict and poverty. GDSRC Professional Development Reading Pack no. 52. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham.

[x] Achvarina, V, & Reich, S. (2010). No Place to Hide: Refugees, Displaced Persons, and Child Soldier Recruits. In Gates, S. & Reich, S. (eds) Child Soldiers in the Age of Fractured States. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

[xi] Dudenhoefer, A. (2016). Understanding the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa. Conflict Trends 2016(2).

[xii] Child Soldiers International. (2004). Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 – Burundi, available at: [accessed 29 December 2022]

[xiii] Rapport de la revue à mi parcours du projet enfants soldats au Burundi, avril 2004, Bujumbura, Projet du Gouvernement du Burundi appuyé par I’UNICEF.

Making Christmas feel like Christmas

The John Lewis Partnership has teamed up with Action for Children, aiming to make a lasting difference to young people in care across the UK. This year’s Christmas advert adopts a refreshingly new style for the company’s traditional festive campaign. Their commercial, titled ‘The Beginner’, introduces Ellie who represents one of 108,000 children in the UK care system. Sad faced, she arrives at her foster home just prior to Christmas Day where she is warmly greeted by her new foster parents. As a first impression she notices a skateboard in the hallway and the cast on her foster father’s arm. In fact, he is battered and bruised from repeated attempts to master some fundamental skateboarding moves, a hobby he understands means a lot to Ellie, whose sole possession appears to be a well-loved board.What the advert doesn’t reveal is that a young person goes into care in the UK every seventeen minutes. That amounts to approximately 30,000 each year. Moreover, Action for Children, suggests that 60,000 children referred to social services each year were referred the previous year as well but, for a variety of reasons, were not offered any support. For some young people, receiving vital help from the state is a very slow process.

Media impressions of Christmas

Conventionally, the media tend to promote generic impressions of Christmas, with families gathered around a strikingly decorated Christmas tree, opening neatly wrapped presents, heartily eating and drinking fine fare, and generally enjoying a carefree time away from life’s more usually hectic routines. Perhaps there are red and green knitted stockings draped over the soft furnishings, a roaring fire with a pet dog stretched out in front of the fireplace, and ornate decorations completing the festive scene. However, for many families and children this impression of Christmas time is a far cry from the harsher reality of 2022. This begs two questions, how many children experience a less than happy Christmas? And, what can we do to make Christmas feel like Christmas, irrespective of material and commercially driven impressions and expectations?

Christmas can be stressful

The answer to the first of these questions is difficult to determine but suffice to say that it is probably rather more than you would imagine. There are several important socio-economic factors which frame individual family contexts. Ironically, for many parents Christmas can prove to be a stressful time. There are deadlines to be met at work, shopping to be bought, meals to be prepared, presents to be organised, cards and messages to be sent, relatives to be visited – sometimes hundreds of miles away – and housework to be completed. Perhaps we can stand aside from the hype for a few minutes to think about what might make a genuinely happy Christmas, especially for children classed as living in poverty. One where materialism does not take centre stage, one where overindulgence is rendered irrelevant, and one where overspending to keep up with expectations doesn’t land families in debt. After all, financial stress and hardship are leading causes of anxiety and depression, and the impact of these mental health conditions can deeply affect children.

The link between poverty and mental wellbeing

Official figures confirm that child poverty in the UK is increasingly widespread. However, Christmas can prove to be a difficult time and not just because of the financial constraints imposed by hardship. Poverty and mental health issues are indisputably linked. For example, anxiety and depression are more prevalent among young people whose personal circumstances mean that they are eligible for free school meals. Moreover, statistically speaking, children whose families face hardship are less likely to attain good examination grades than their peers. This fact can naturally undermine their self-esteem and prove to be educationally demotivating. Consequently, the festive season with its material expectations is likely to present additional sources of stress to young people who may already feel socially disadvantaged. So, while for a majority of children Christmas can be an exciting and even a magical time of year, for a sizeable minority it might prove to be divisive, isolating, and it can even undermine self-confidence.

Challenges arising from Christmas school holidays

Beyond the financial and material associations of present giving, the school holidays can also become disruptive because daily routines inevitably alter. Most young people do not mind staying in bed later, nor going to bed later. However, a lack of routine can become disruptive and counterproductive. There can appear to be no obvious sense to each day’s shape, and some young people may simply drift through the holidays. Others have no choice but to take on huge responsibilities during the school break. For example, there may well be a younger sibling to look after during the day, meaning that the school pupil in question fulfils the role of a young carer. Others may be obliged to look for temporary work to help support their family. Perhaps this transpires to be informally arranged and consequently the experience might transpire to be exploitative. These types of change to everyday life can leave young people vulnerable to all sorts of external pressures and commitments. Moreover, given the short days and prevalently chilly, wet weather, there may be limited opportunities to spend time outside, which can lead to a sense of boredom, frustration, or just feeling pent up.

Domestic abuse can become more prevalent at Christmas time

Moreover, there are additional issues facing many young people during the festive season. For instance, some children live in the shadow cast by domestic violence, which is documented to peak at this time of year. At Christmas people tend to consume more alcoholic drinks than usual, and that fact, alongside financial worries and expectations, can intensify domestic tension leading to increases of violent incidents at home. Children are naturally sensitive to family dynamics and can unwittingly find themselves caught in the middle of parental arguments. These can quickly spiral out of control. If you, or somebody you know, is experiencing domestic violence and associated relationship breakdown, help is available at:

The most important gift this Christmas

Given these issues and pressures it is remarkable how resilient and positive many young people are when coping with their individual circumstances. We can all make a difference to young people’s wellbeing simply by bearing in mind what really matters at this time of the year. I really like Christmas. It can often be a reflective and relaxing time and there are opportunities to spread some happiness and positive sentiments among family and friends. Even in a secular society the idea of a midwinter festival which marks the passing of the shortest days of the year and anticipates a new year, spring time and sunnier days to come, seems instinctively appealing. The festive season does, of course, also offer an opportunity to reconnect with children, as families spend more time together. Lasting, affectionate connections can be rebuilt. Perhaps the most important gift that adults can give a young person is time, alongside sincere attention and love. There is a danger of prioritising a long list of chores which inadvertently side line children.

Planning Christmas together

Moreover, planning together for a simple Christmas time avoids the prospect of over-expectation, and enshrines the notion that little things matter a good deal. Young people have been exposed to Christmas advertising since the beginning of October. That commercially led, drawn out anticipation can be concluded in a matter of minutes as presents are hurriedly opened. Perhaps Christmas could be approached in a more measured manner, wound down gently, and lasting memories could be formed by establishing new family traditions. For instance, something as simple as a walk to look at the festive lights, or a game of charades, or reading excerpts of a traditional story, like some short passages from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

Making a difference at Christmas

Given that young people learn from what the adults around them do, it ought to be possible to demonstrate what really matters. For example, volunteering for a couple of hours may prove to be affirming and inspiring for a young person, engendering a broader sense of perspective. Or, where possible, planning a small donation to a charity together. For example, Barnardo’s Christmas appeal aims to tackle child poverty by providing food, warm clothes, bedding, and generally spreading a sense of Christmas spirit. Contributing in ways like these could help to offer young people a life changing gift that will empower them to navigate through the material associations of the festive season and nurture an appreciation of thinking about others, no matter what their own circumstances.

Self-help Strategies for Young Refugees’ Mental Wellbeing

UNHCR presents some sobering statistics on the numbers of people around the globe forced to leave their homes. By mid-2022 there were estimated to be 103 million refugees. That is approximately one and a half times the total population of the UK, and about one and a half percent of the world’s population. Of that unimaginably huge number, over a third – or 36.5 million – were under the age of eighteen. Strikingly it is calculated that a thousand children every day are born with refugee status.

The challenges facing these young people and their families are bewildering. Everyday facilities, resources, and community benefits which people in the UK take for granted, amount to little more than pipe dreams. Basic shelter, sanitation, education, health care, nutrition, and earning a living appear dauntingly out of reach, while language barriers and cultural differences in host nations may provoke and embed prejudice and hostility.

Anxiety is commonplace among refugee children

As my previous blog explained, for migrant children anxiety is a prevalent condition for which there is limited scope for formal treatment in many host countries. Nor, regrettably, is there much prospect of that situation immediately improving for the vast majority of the 103 million people presently forced into migration. Resources and services in host nations like Uganda (one and a half million refugees), Columbia (two and a half million refugees) and Turkey (over three and a half million refugees) are critically overstretched and underfunded, despite these nations’ best humanitarian initiatives. It is issues such as the impact of personal and political crises on people’s mental health which leads to conditions like anxiety and depression becoming long term and widespread.

A place for self-help strategies

While there is no substitute for professional advice and help, experts do recommend a series of self-help strategies which can prove beneficial in addressing symptoms of anxiety. Raising awareness about the importance and fragility of mental wellbeing is vitally important for everyone, especially for the most vulnerable people in global communities. Mental health first aiders are trained to promote these self-help strategies to empower people of all ages to attempt to regain some sense of control over their emotional wellbeing. By informing young refugees about practical steps endorsed by specialists they are likely to feel more positive in their outlook on their lives. That would amount to a significant start in appreciating and countering symptoms of anxiety, although there is no denying the uphill struggle which they will continue to face without professional treatment.

What self-help strategies are accessible for young migrant people?

Sports and exercise

Experts suggest that taking regular exercise is beneficial in addressing mental health conditions like anxiety. This could be as simple as going for a short walk. For a lot of young people, linking the issue with physical wellbeing is a natural place to begin. Regular exercise is acknowledged to be affirming for mental wellbeing. It improves fitness and can inspire a positive mood. This is a first step on the way to a broader and more positive outlook, which in turn can start to create a sense of self-esteem.

So if, for example, a group of migrant children were given a second-hand football, they would have the potential to improve their physical and mental wellbeing. Of course, unsupervised they might risk physical injuries, but potential benefits could reach comfortably beyond the children’s wellbeing into the heart of their community, if local people became involved in organising some basic training or informal games.

Thanks to organisations like Fairplay For All Foundation, operating in Payatas, young football players who grow up facing extreme poverty have been selected to participate in the Street Child World Cup, representing the Philippines. This is truly aspirational for others in the community. Imagine the liberating sense of fulfilment galvanised by this opportunity. For the majority of those invited to Doha to participate in this year’s global competition, it would have been their first time flying, just one beneficial aspect of such a broadening experience. Having ambitions like these is a powerful motivator and can certainly impact positively on mental wellbeing. By taking some daily exercise, however informally, young people may benefit from a host of other lifestyle improvements. For example, they are more likely to adopt better sleeping routines.

Building friendships

Moreover, social interaction certainly benefits mental health. This is especially vital as young children develop. Building friendships impacts positively on mental wellbeing, for instance by fostering self-confidence and a greater sense of self-esteem. Aberdeen-based charity, Befriend a Child reaches out to young people who face difficult personal circumstances. Volunteers regularly meet up with the children to help them increase their sense of self-worth, develop new skills, reduce isolation and promote positive wellbeing. Friendships can generate a feeling of belonging, together with a positive and purposeful outlook. This means that interaction with other young people can boost confidence and help to provide a broader perspective on other issues, whether through diversion or by changing a child’s dominant moods. Even something as simple as listening to jokes can help to improve outlook. Enjoying good friendships can also foster a common sense of purpose, which is potentially transformative for mental wellbeing.

Maintaining a balanced diet

It goes without saying that eating a well-balanced diet and keeping hydrated are also important to physical and mental wellbeing. It’s vital that information about these important aspects of everyday life are publicised, perhaps even by word of mouth, as a rudimentary element of any basic educational programme. Funding and resourcing a well-balanced diet for refugees is a huge economic and logistical challenge for host nations, but it is still fundamental to address awareness of these issues among young people.

The benefits of safeguarding mental wellbeing

There are of course other important self-help suggestions to safeguard and improve mental health. For example, mental health first aiders recommend deep breathing exercises, which can be performed almost anywhere and at any time. They can quickly bring a sense of calm to anyone feeling symptoms of depression, anxiety or stress. Young people are also encouraged to write an informal journal, if possible on a daily basis, briefly focussing on positive moments in their lives. These could be as simple as a good sleep, or fine weather. Mental health first aiders also commend mindfulness. While this may not immediately appeal to young people the benefits of calmly focussing on our surroundings and listening to our sensory responses are indisputable.

One important yet understated benefit of being part of a community is the potentially positive impact on children’s mental wellbeing. Bringing young people together, integrating them into informal activities offers a way ahead for migrants and refugees. The benefit of addressing mental wellbeing through self-help strategies may not appear to be as tangible as other fundamental improvements, but in a number of ways it is the most significant of all, helping to transform and empower some of the world’s poorest children.

Signposting help

Various organisations give advice on safeguarding mental wellbeing. For example, the NHS discusses the benefits of self-help tips for improving mental health. Moreover, in 2022 the Mental Health Foundation has produced a series of short, educational films to support refugee mental wellbeing. One tells the story of Mariam, who fled from Syria and now lives in Scotland. The video endorses the Mental Health Foundation’s support programme and promotes tips to improve and safeguard young refugees’ mental health. Hearteningly, in initiatives which the foundation runs in Wales and Scotland, asylum seekers and refugees are recruited and trained to serve as peer leaders. Their role is to foster empathy, understanding, and mental health literacy. By empowering people in this way, young refugees can derive an affirming sense of self-esteem, while appreciating the difference that can be made through constructive mediation.

In conclusion, young refugees can benefit a great deal from talking about mental health issues. Raising awareness and encouraging self-help through educational programmes, however informally, can make a marked difference to the mental wellbeing of young people, particularly when little or no expert medical treatment is available. Community initiatives, especially those which empower people from the refugee community, can prove to be advantageous in more ways than one. Naturally, young refugees benefit from improved knowledge of mental health, but they are also likely to look up to community role models. Anything which inspires young people, no matter what their circumstances across the world happen to be, can become transformational for them, providing them with a more purposeful outlook. This in turn will impact positively on their mental wellbeing.

Mental health issues facing refugee children

In her recent blog for Poverty Child, Samantha Bunce discusses the detrimental impact of poverty on health. An overwhelming catalogue of challenges facing refugee children is documented in an all too sobering account by UNICEF. Displacement, loss and the complete breakdown of routine are only the beginning. Millions of refugee children, many unaccompanied, are confronted by terrible challenges while travelling before they reach their destination, often without any prospect of a return to their former homes and lives. They appear to have very few options to undertake safe migrations, risking unforeseen exploitation and dangers, for example being forced into child labour, marriage, trafficking, let alone the risk of violence and humiliation. It goes without saying that these children are deprived of an education, basic nutrition, organised medical care, as well as possessions, friends and relatives. As personal tragedies unfold and compound, daunting problems await further down the line. How challenging it must be to try fitting into a new community so different to anything previously experienced. Initially there is political bureaucracy to negotiate; inevitable prejudice; language barriers; cultural differences; and the lasting impact left by the pandemic. Organisations like UNHCR, UNICEF, and Save the Children present arrays of statistics to highlight the suffering and deprivation associated with the plight of refugee children, but it is a sad reality that long-term mental health issues can be all too easily overlooked by the new host community. The old notion that a broken leg is easier to treat than a mental health condition, because it is clearly tangible, remains totally applicable.

What forms of anxiety can refugee children experience?

Anxiety occurs in many forms. For example, Separation Anxiety which especially affects younger children. If refugee children are separated from a parent or relatives, then they are susceptible to powerfully specific feelings of being unsafe and unloved. New circumstances and contexts can make them feel bewilderingly upset, even if they are with people they know and love. While it is perfectly natural for children to miss their parents for a few hours or even a few days, imagine the emotional prospect of being separated on a seemingly permanent basis. They may be clinging to hopes of being reunited, as well as vividly recalling final goodbyes. Suddenly having to cope without the support of loved ones, in unfamiliar and dangerous situations would seem utterly daunting to refugee children. Some do take with them one or two personal possessions which they strongly associate with their homes and relatives. While these can prove to be affirmingly comforting they can also provoke poignantly sad memories. The NHS discusses Separation Anxiety here.

Migration, Integration, Migrants, Merge

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic condition. Anyone suffering from GAD is likely to be preoccupied about a past event or specific people a great deal of the time. It can have a hugely inhibiting impact on a child, to the point where it becomes difficult for them to concentrate or socialise. The condition is linked to Social Anxiety Disorder, where children become withdrawn because they feel convinced that they will be judged, mocked, and bullied by those around them. Experiences of child refugees mean that they are particularly susceptible to these mental health conditions. The NHS discusses Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder here.

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Unsurprisingly, child refugees commonly suffer from PTSD. They have often witnessed terrible events and losses. They are prone to mental health aftershocks which include panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, and persistent preoccupation with what they have experienced. It is vital to understand that these episodes frequently occur when there is no present trigger for them. This can make it difficult for new hosts and communities to appreciate precisely what the child concerned is suffering. The incidents may be over, but the children are highly likely to experience these symptoms of PTSD until formal treatment can be administered, which may not be for a long time, depending on the new host society. And these symptoms can be terrifying, not simply upsetting. The NHS discusses PTSD here.


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Mental health first aid approaches

Mental health first aid courses emphasise the importance of providing non-judgemental reassurance and space to young people who are suffering from forms of anxiety. Experts explain that intrusive probing is counterproductive and risks exacerbating anxiety issues, possibly even leading to self-harm. Supportive, sympathetic conversations may convey enough comfort to empower a young person to begin to open up about their feelings and concerns. Listening in a calm manner is an important approach, establishing a sincere sense of trust. It is important that the young person can feel reassured enough to take the lead and explain their feelings. In other words, thoughtful listening is central to reaching out to people with anxiety. Mental health first aiders are trained to avoid patronising approaches which can stifle opportunities for the young person to describe their feelings and reactions. Consequently, it is recommended practice to avoid assertive-sounding language, a simple phrase like ‘How may I help you?’ is far more likely to prove conducive to establishing trust than ‘You have to calm down’. Likewise, ‘You are welcome to come back to see us when you would like to’ would feel more empowering and respectful than ‘You are overthinking your situation’, which sounds judgementally dismissive. Reaching out to young refugees with anxiety conditions is all about building bridges and affording opportunities to talk openly in a safe and supportive context.

It is also important to validate the young person’s anxiety. The triggers and reflections which continue to  prompt their anxiety remain consistently threatening for them. They do not seem irrelevant or irrational and must not be played down. Young refugees need to be assured that they are not alone, that people do care about their situation and that there will be help available. Above all, mental health first aiders are trained never to hold a young person accountable for their condition. Nor will they overwhelm anyone with too much information about specific forms of anxiety, but they will confirm that improvement and recovery are completely possible. Finally, if professional services are available mental health first aiders will recommend those when the time feels right.

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Positive steps forward

The Refugee Council supports families and unaccompanied children arriving in the UK. They have developed a specialist mental wellbeing service for lone young refugees, My View. Their vision is encouragingly ambitious, to help children harness the extraordinary strength and resilience which they have demonstrated in their stories so far. Professional treatment includes one-to-one therapy and therapeutic group meetings. Young people are invited to discuss and express their feelings, for example, through creative arts. There have also been opportunities to participate in psychosocial activities, for instance, an outing to Kew Gardens, or joining an equine therapy workshop, or attending practical sessions at a community garden. Professionals consider the impact of such treatment and activities to be hugely beneficial to the young people concerned. Gratifyingly, approximately eighty percent of participants have acknowledged tangible improvements to their mental health.

In conclusion, child refugees face daunting challenges and displacement leaves them bewildered and susceptible to mental health issues like anxiety. This can manifest itself in various forms, like GAD, PTSD and separation anxiety. If professional treatment is unavailable, mental health first aid can provide support and offer a way ahead for these most vulnerable children.

Urban Child Poverty – Economic Cause and Effect

8 young children smiling up to the camera in Sumatra

What does childhood look like?

Children cannot always contribute and say what they want: what is right for one may not be right for another.  Urban child poverty is a global issue.  Ensure a brighter future for children requires more action now.  Eradicating extreme poverty is a global concern.  There will be a perpetual downward spiral unless the bar is raised higher.  Many charities, organisations and community groups are already making great improvements.  However, to overhaul the system governments must also cooperate.  Social funds would reduce reliance on a child’s income.  Improved access to education and building safe environments for play would ensure the next generation of adults are more economically active.

Urban child poverty and labour

In 2016, the International Labour Office (ILO) estimated 152 million children were labourers. Almost half were working in hazardous conditions.[1]

Since 2000, the mission to decrease child labour was proving effective.  But the economic stresses of the pandemic began to reverse some of this good work.  In 2021, an estimated 160 million children were labourers.[2]

Woman and child high on a hill of long green grassPixabay – Sasin Tipchai

Agriculture is the most common type of work for children to be engaged in.  Rural areas have three times more child labourers than urban areas.[3]

However, that doesn’t mean the number of working urban children is low.  Families can be large, with 4 or more children.  The older ones are often enlisted into family businesses – weaving, selling flowers or selling food in the streets.  Some end up begging.  Or scavenging through waste for leftovers.  Others are preyed upon by sexual predators and traffickers, coerced into activities that will cause them nothing but misery and suffering.[4][5]

Improvements are necessary

This is not sustainable.  ILO and UNICEF have set out a list of changes essential for the future health of a neglected population.  There’s a dire need for social protection, including universal access to child benefits.  Schools must be free and inclusive.  Employment and education opportunities for adults need to be improved, so that they stop depending on the income of children.  Child protection systems and infrastructure is necessary to support the young.  Spending money on improvements now, will reap benefits in the future.[6]

Recognition of the changes needed and campaigning for them is only part of what it takes for change to occur.  A huge cultural shift is needed.   Focus should be placed on nurturing a child’s potential through education, play, and sport – rather than exploiting them.

As long as there are people and organisations willing to support the development of young people – to advocate and show them they can change their lives and dream big – there is a chance children born into poverty won’t have to raise their own children in poverty.  It takes action, courage and consistency from people willing to help and improve the world a little at a time.

Teacher and students outside of a schoolPixabay – Aditio Tantra Danang Wisnu Wardhana

Combatting urban child poverty through education

Education is nice to have but not always achievable.  Some families may depend on their children to supplement the family’s income by taking on employment themselves.  A lot of the work available to informal settlement and slum residents is precarious.  Contracts run out, and competition is high.  And yet, rent must be paid, food must be paid, electricity must be paid.  After providing the necessities, additional costs for school fees, books and uniforms become a burden.[7]

There are support services available to help struggling families.  But, accessing them can be difficult or conditional, and that’s only if people even know about them.  Groups like Street Child can assist families in meeting with support teams.[8] Meeting the conditions for assistance can be daunting.  Families living in informal settlements struggle to complete application forms: their addresses are not officially recognised.

Child centred learning

Fairplay For All Foundation in Payatas is a group that aims to improve the lives of local children by giving them the opportunities they need to thrive.

“We believe in child-centered(sic) learning; students learn at their own pace, have a say in how the school is run, in what lessons they take, and in how they shape their future.”[9]

Allowing children some say in their education gives them experience in making decisions, promotes inclusion and encourages them to keep at it.  Urban child poverty doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion.

Girls, education and Pregnancy. The Philippines has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the ASEAN. Only 3%of mothers aged 15-19 agreed that the father was in the same age group as them. U-18 mums are less likely to complete their education, lowering their incomes for life. They are more likely to experience domestic violence causing: Depression and low birth weight child. Uganda: Covid-19 school closures saw an estimates 600'000 girls give birth.Pixabay – Ratna Fitry [10][11]

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has recognised an urgent need to improve sex education for young people and provide services to combat economic hardships faced due to teenage pregnancy.  They aim to influence policy making: to improve education and employment opportunities, to increase access to contraception and to provide support for families.[12]

The poverty cycle will continue like this unless there is a fundamental change in how children are valued.  Formal education can increase individual earning potential, standards of living, and GDP but it’s not the only aspect of childhood education to consider.  Learning through play helps a child develop emotionally and socially as well as encourage confidence and self-belief.

5 boys running and laughing, playing with tire and stickPixabay – Joseph Samson

Importance of play for developing children

Playing, and learning through play, is vital for the development of a child. It provides opportunities to: develop social skills; combat stress and poor mental health; practice calculating risk safely and experience a sense of self-worth.  In a living environment that is often full of danger, stress and a cycle of low self-image, it is extremely important to give children the opportunity to see themselves positively.  A child who knows nothing of self-improvement – and the great feeling of accomplishment – will be unlikely to seek those feelings as adults, or encourage their own children to pursue them.

According to 2019 data, less than half of the world’s population has access to open public space within 400m of their home.  Just over a quarter of people in Eastern and Southeastern Asia have this luxury.[13]

This demonstrates that a very small number of children in urban areas can play safely in nature.  The majority of children (if they even have the time) play in alleyways or must complete long, unsafe journeys to reach a park.  In addition, entrance fees are often charged.

Playing for health

“Poverty itself can negatively affect how the body and mind develop, and economic hardship can actually alter the fundamental structure of the child’s brain.”[14]

Playing in a safe environment allows children the opportunity to forget, however briefly, some of the problems they live with.  Stress is extremely detrimental to growing bodies and toxic to brain chemistry.

Being exposed to a wide variety of extremely stressful situations is a lot for young minds to take on.  That’s why the work of local community groups is extremely important – to give children with nowhere else to turn, an opportunity to make the most of their early lives.

Fairplay for All (Payatas, Philippines)

The Fairplay for All Foundation in Payatas, Philippines works with local children assisting with  education as well as providing safe spaces to play. Giving children a challenge and an opportunity to grow is vitally important.  Allowing them the chance to hope, a chance to achieve self-worth makes all the difference.


During the early days of Covid-19, the children started a newsletter to occupy their time.  Loren (17) wrote an article:

“When I was younger, I didn’t really understand the importance of nature and why we should take care of it. I have only known the world which I grew up in, a place where there’s trash everywhere and no scenic views in sight”. Because Payatas’ informal settlement was built in a rubbish dump, the locals understand the importance of recycling – it is how they have survived.  As Loren notes: “..people here are more aware of how their garbage should be handled and don’t just throw things that can still be reused or recycled.”

Children are the next generation of leaders: given the opportunity and some confidence they can make their communities – the world – a better place.[15]

Cars before children

As cities grow and urban areas expand, very little thought has been given to youth.  Playparks are forgotten, green spaces transform into roads, and all the safety is yanked out of a young person’s day.

Work is ongoing across the world to undo the bad habit of favouring of cars over children. Charitable organisations continue to press the issue.  In addition, they highlight the need to plan child-friendly space in balance with economic needs.  Yes, adults do need to drive to work: but children also need a slice of nature preserved for a chance at physical and mental health.[16]

Mental and physical health effects of urban child poverty

The chronic stress of living in impoverished and unhealthy conditions can overwhelm a child’s stress response systems, causing what has been referred to as “toxic stress.”[17]

Children and adults who live in poor neighbourhoods are likely to experience mental health problems, as well as physical problems.  Poverty and a shorter life expectancy almost go hand in hand.  Furthermore, they are at risk from malnutrition, chronic illness, exposure to pollutants, food insecurity, violence and crime.[18]

Each of these factors inhibits a child’s development.  Outside help is often needed to break the cycle.  Organisations such as Fairplay are essential for giving the young a safe environment to enjoy their childhood, away from the stigma and stress of urban child poverty.

Risks of overcrowding in urban areas

There are inherent risks in growing up in overcrowded urban areas.  Informal settlements are often without hygienic waste disposal and are navigated by a series of alleyways where this waste gathers.  Children are exposed to all kinds of illness, physical injury and even death in these areas.[19]

As populations expand, informal settlements expand along with them.  It has been estimated that 2 billion people have little access to sanitation.  In Kenya alone, estimates say around 1-2% of GDP is lost because of insufficient hygiene controls.[20]

In a world contending with Covid-19, it seems unthinkable that so many people don’t have clean water to wash their hands.  They can’t hydrate without risking their health.  Their immune systems are assaulted daily, and for the emerging immune systems of children, this assault can be overpowering.

As well as illnesses brought on by a combination of inadequate nutrition and sanitation, overcrowding increases the risk of burns, falls, heatstroke and road traffic accidents.[21]

Children depend on adults for help

There are many reasons why a child must look after themselves.  Some are orphans and some parents work long hours.  Some are street children, separated from their families.  Without healthy supervision and guidance, children won’t spot potential dangers or be fully aware of their surroundings.  They depend on adults to teach them.  The pressures of poverty mean that, unfortunately, children are neglected because there is no other choice.

Therefore, they must make their way in a world that hasn’t considered their perspective.  Urban areas are expanding fast, cobbled together without much planning.  There’s a lack of speed limits on roads, lack of walkable pavements, lack of easily accessible shops and an explosive increase in the number of road users.  Combined, these create a frightening scenario for young children.[22]

There are many positive changes taking place to improve the lives of young people affected by urban child poverty but the issues are so widespread that more, as always, must be done.  Covid-19 has eroded gained ground and change is precarious.  How many families would prefer their child to work in hazardous conditions over living their best life? Unfortunately, the needs of today are far more pressing than the ideals of tomorrow


  1. International Labour Office (ILO) “Global Estimates of Child Labour: Results and Trends 2012-2016 Executive Summary”; Available at (accessed: 30/03/2022)
  2. ILO “Child Labour Rises to 160 Million – First Increase in Two Decades” 10/06/2021; Available at–en/index.htm#:~:text=GENEVA%20(ILO%20News)%20%E2%80%93%20The,Organization%20(ILO)%20and%20UNICEF (accessed: 30/03/2022)
  3. Ibid.
  4. ChildHope Philippines “A Closer Look At Child Labor in the Philippines” 08/06/2021; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  5. Halliday, J “Former Radio 1 DJ Mark Page Jailed Over Philippines Child Sexual Offenses” 10/03/2022; Available at,their%20poverty%2C%20the%20judge%20said (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  6. ILO “Child Labour Rises to 160 Million – First Increase in Two Decades” 10/06/2021; Available at–en/index.htm#:~:text=GENEVA%20(ILO%20News)%20%E2%80%93%20The,Organization%20(ILO)%20and%20UNICEF (accessed: 30/03/2022)
  7. Children of the Mekong; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  8. Street Child “125 Million Children Around The World Cannot Go To School. We’re Working To Change That”; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  9. Fairplay For All Foundation; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  10. United Nations Population Fund “Eliminating Teenage Pregnancy in the Philippines” Jan 2020; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  11. The Independent “Uganda’s Teenage Pregnancies Five Times Higher Than Covid-19 Positive Cases” 05/12/2021; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  12. United Nations Population Fund “Eliminating Teenage Pregnancy in the Philippines” Jan 2020, Page 4-5; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  13. United Nations Statistics Division “The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020”, Page 47; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  14. Children’s Bureau “Children In Poverty – Poverty and its Effects on Children” 28/01/2019; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  15. Loren “A World For Our Children” 04/08/2020, “The Payatas Paper” No.12; available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  16. Cities4Children “Conversations: How Can We Improve Children’s Experience of the Urban Environment” 01/03/2022; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  17. Francis, L., DePriest, K., Wilson, M., Gross, D., (September 30, 2018) “Child Poverty, Toxic Stress, and Social Determinants of Health: Screening and Care Coordination ” OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 23, No. 3, Manuscript 2; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  18. Children’s Bureau “Children In Poverty – Poverty and its Effects on Children” 28/01/2019; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  19. Mathur, Aditya et al. “Unintentional Childhood Injuries in Urban and Rural Ujjain, India: A Community-Based Survey.” Children (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 5,2 23. 8 Feb. 2018, doi:10.3390/children5020023; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  20. CDC Investment Works “The Sanitation Business Leaving Nothing To Waste”; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  21. Mathur, Aditya et al. “Unintentional Childhood Injuries in Urban and Rural Ujjain, India: A Community-Based Survey.” Children (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 5,2 23. 8 Feb. 2018, doi:10.3390/children5020023; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)
  22. Silverman, A. “Rights of Way: Child Poverty and Road Traffic Injury in the SDGS”; Available at (Accessed 30/03/2022)

Child trafficking

Girl's eye

Child trafficking is a form of human trafficking and occurs in nearly every country in the world. According to the United Nations Palermo Protocol, child trafficking is defined as “[t]he recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation”[1]. This protocol has been adopted by most countries and this definition of child trafficking is therefore widely accepted worldwide. Studies have shown that 27% of human trafficking victims are children and 2 out of 3 of these victims are girls.[2] Although boys can be victims of child trafficking, girls are disproportionately affected due to gender inequality and gender-based violence. Girls are twice as likely to be reported as victims of child trafficking and are often trafficked for forced marriages and sexual slavery.[3] Across the globe, 120 million girls experience sexual exploitation[4] which can have devastating consequences for their childhood and futures.

In this article, we will firstly look at the main factors leading to child trafficking. We will then consider the work being carried out by charities and organisations that is helping to put an end to child trafficking globally.

The main causes of child trafficking


Poverty is one of the main reasons behind child trafficking. Families and children often wish to migrate away from poor areas to more wealthy areas. Traffickers can manipulate families and children by making false promises of escaping poverty and obtaining better employment and education, remuneration and improved living conditions.[5] However, in fact, this is not the case and victims are forced to do work such as prostitution and hard labour. They receive hardly any pay for this work and still find themselves living in poverty.[6] Traffickers also approach parents living in poverty and encourage them to sell their children into slavery in return for money.[7]

Social and cultural norms

In some countries around the world, social and cultural norms can lead to child trafficking. Selling children to traffickers may be seen as the norm in poor areas and in other places, it is considered acceptable for people to give themselves into slavery as a security for repayment of a debt.[8] In Mauritania, it is still the norm for families to be kept by slave-masters and in Uzbekistan, forced labour is institutionalised.[9] These norms may prevent victims from reporting that they are being trafficked or telling anyone about who they were trafficked by.[10]

Lack of education

Many victims of trafficking suffer from a lack of education and are not aware of their rights. According to The Freedom Story, “[i]n the triborder area in Thailand, 22 percent of surveyed prostitutes had never attended school and 41.5% had some exposure to primary education.”[11]

A lack of education is one of the reasons as to why traffickers target these people and make false promises of a better education and opportunities. Furthermore, due to gender inequality, girls in poverty are sometimes forced to drop out of school and do not have the same opportunities as boys to access jobs. This can lead to girls being trapped in a cycle of poverty and being more vulnerable to trafficking. A lack of education can lead to less empowerment, less opportunities for work and less knowledge about rights.[12]

What is being done to stop child trafficking?

A lot of work is being implemented by charities and organisations around the world to help eradicate child trafficking altogether. Some of these initiatives and projects are outlined below.

Working with local communities

It is important to tackle child trafficking within local communities and address the root causes behind the practice. Save the Children is an example of an organisation which has worked with local communities and governments in order to prevent child trafficking from occurring. It has carried out work in Daulatdia in Bangladesh since 1997 which is one of the world’s largest brothels. Save the Children has worked directly with mothers and children in Daulatdia and aimed to break the cycle of poverty. The organisation has also offered counselling to young mothers who have become pregnant through sex work and provided advice with regards to caring for their children. Girls have been given safe spaces and Save the Children has worked with local governments to help families and children access better services.[13]

Improving education

As mentioned previously, a lack of education is one of the main reasons as to why children are lured into child trafficking. Increasing education helps children learn about their rights, their choices and opportunities, and it prevents children from being forced or manipulated into trafficking. The Freedom Story is an example of an organisation which focuses on ending sex trafficking by increasing education. This charity offers scholarships to vulnerable children in Northern Thailand, provides weekly mentorship and counselling, teaches children about their sexual and legal rights, and helps children stay in schools.[14]

Raising awareness

Raising awareness of child trafficking is very important in order to help put an end to the practice, support those at risk and assist them with making better choices. Organisations such as Stop the Traffik are designing and implementing awareness campaigns in communities where people are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. Stop the Traffik is utilising data to look at hotspots, trends, exploitation types and techniques used by traffickers. The information is then used to target the campaigns and help local communities tackle trafficking. The organisation collaborates with local partners integrated within communities such as NGOs, churches, media and law enforcement.[15]


Overall, child trafficking is a harmful practice which occurs in almost every country in the world. Both boys and girls are victims of child trafficking but it is a practice which disproportionately affects girls due to a gender imbalance in several countries. This article has explored some of the main reasons behind child trafficking including poverty, social and cultural norms, and a lack of education in victims. We also examined the work being carried out by organisations and charities such as groundwork in local communities, improving education and raising awareness of trafficking through campaigns. It is clear that a holistic approach must be adopted to protect children and eradicate child trafficking completely.

[1]Article 3(c)UN General Assembly, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, 15 November 2000

[2]Save the Children, ‘The Fight Against Child Trafficking’ <> accessed 03 December 2021



[5]The Borgen Project, ‘Poverty and it’s contribution to human trafficking’ <> accessed 03 December 2021


[7]Human Rights Careers, ’10 causes of human trafficking’ <> accessed 03 December 2021




[11]The Freedom Story <> accessed 03 December 2021

[12]Human Rights Careers, ’10 causes of human trafficking’ (n 7)

[13]Save the Children, ‘The Fight Against Child Trafficking’ ( n 2)

[14]The Freedom Story <> accessed 03 December 2021

[15]Stop the Traffik <> accessed 03 December 2021

Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence

Violence against women and girls is a significant human rights violation but it is still perpetrated in many countries around the world. Gender-based violence is a term which is used for any harmful act carried out against a person’s will because of gender differences between men and women. These acts can cause physical, sexual or mental harm and can include coercion or threats.[1]  According to the World Bank Group, gender-based violence affects 1 in 3 women during their lifetime with 35% of women experiencing physical and/or sexual violence.[2] The World Bank Group also states that around the world, 38% of murders of women are carried out by their partners and 200 million women and girls have experienced female genital mutilation.[3] These statistics are alarming and violence against women and girls can cause long-lasting and detrimental effects.

In this article, we will firstly look at what causes gender-based violence around the world. We will then consider the impact of gender-based violence on girls and women. Lastly, we will examine the work carried out by charities and other organisations to help eradicate the practice of gender-based violence.

The main causes of gender-based violence


Poverty is one of the main drivers behind gender-based violence globally. Women and girls living in poverty often face discrimination due to gender biases and unequal power relationships. As a result of these gender inequalities, they are exposed to many forms of violence.[4] Women and girls living in poverty may reside in unsafe and dangerous environments which increases their risk to violence. They often have to walk long distances through isolated places to gather firewood or collect water and as a result, they are at risk of sexual assault.[5] Furthermore, women and girls in poverty are often tasked with countless household chores and this may create problems within the household which regularly leads to domestic violence.[6] Sadly, these women and girls do not have many opportunities to leave violent relationships with their partners because they lack income and resources.[7]

Cultural and social norms

In many communities, violence against women and girls is often overlooked as being a cultural or social norm. Norms and attitudes within communities and cultures can often be difficult to change because they may be based on religion and other factors.[8] Some communities do not recognise wife beating as violence and sexually harassing girls is considered a norm.[9] According to The Borgen Project, families uphold the sexual purity of women and girls and this is why female genital mutilation is a widespread practice in many communities.[10] Family honour is regarded as more important than women and girls’ safety which results in honour killings.[11] Additionally, the practice of widow inheritance is common and considered a cultural norm. This is where a widow is forced to marry a male relative of her late husband in order to prevent the women being able to inherit land and property.[12]

Perpetrators are not punished due to violence being unreported

Many forms of violence are not reported to the authorities and accordingly, perpetrators are not punished and the violent acts against women and girls can continue. Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has stated that ‘[s]exual violence against women and girls is rooted in centuries of male domination…reminding the world that stigma, misconceptions, under-reporting and poor enforcement of laws perpetuate impunity in rape cases’.[13] According to the World Health Organisation, there are many reasons why girls and women do not report violence including insufficient support systems; shame; fear of retaliation; fear of not being believed or blamed, and fear of being socially ostracised.[14] In some places, raped women and girls may be killed if they are regarded as having dishonoured their families.[15] Furthermore, law enforcement agencies may not recognise women’s rights and are also impacted by gender inequalities. As a result, violence is overlooked and violent acts continue to be pursued.

The impact of gender-based violence

Girl looking at lens

Physical and sexual health problems

Gender-based violence can cause many physical and sexual health problems for women and girls. These include unwanted pregnancies, male impotence and the possibility of being infected by a sexually transmitted disease such as HIV.[16] According to Médicins Sans Frontières, STIs are more likely caused by forced sex as viruses can enter through tears.[17] Unwanted pregnancies can often lead to abortions being carried out in unsafe conditions. The World Health Organisation’s 2013 study found that those who had been sexually or physically abused were twice as likely to have an abortion.[18] Physical health problems can include neurological illnesses, gastrointestinal illnesses, and muscularly, urinary or reproductive problems.[19]

Mental health problems

Victims of gender-based violence often suffer from many psychological and mental health problems as well. These include depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of suicide.[20] Médicins Sans Frontières has noted that victims may also suffer from guilt and feel as though they could have avoided any incident. Women and girls may also struggle with trusting others which could affect relationships with others.[21] Additionally, survivors of gender-based violence may be frowned upon in some communities and victims of rape may be humiliated in certain cultures which can lead to their mental health suffering.[22]

The impact on children who are born as a result of gender-based violence

Gender-based violence can also impact child survival rates and may contribute to increasing infant mortality rates.[23] A study in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has shown that women who were subject to intimate partner violence were 3 times more likely to have a low birth weight and preterm birth. The study also shows that women who were subject to physical violence during pregnancy were 5 times more likely to experience low birth weight and preterm birth.[24] There are many issues associated with low birth weight including children suffering from infections, malnutrition, issues with cognitive development, stunting by the age of two, chronic disease and problems in education and economic activities at a later age.[25]

Ways to eradicate gender-based violence

The World Bank Group has argued that in order to reduce violence against women and girls, a community-based, multi-pronged stance is required along with cooperation with different stakeholders.[26] Charities, organisations and other bodies have adopted various approaches to help to decrease gender-based violence and some of these are outlined below.


Preventing violence against women and girls before it is carried out is one of the main ways to stop violent acts all together. Structural biases and cultural norms need to be addressed and the discriminatory acts which women and girls face need to be considered.[27] UN Women has adopted a prevention strategy which looks at early education, achieving valued relationships and working with men and boys through media, sports and work.[28] Working with men and boys helps to educate them about gender equality and teaches them about the negative impact of violent behaviours on girls and women. UN Women partnered with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and have implemented a curriculum which allows young people to understand causes of violence in communities. The curriculum also helps to educate people in the communities and prevent gender-based violence.[29]


Laws promoting gender equality and defining violence need to be implemented and enforced within local communities. Charities such as CARE International advocate for laws and policies to be created, revised or improved and base their work on international agreements such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Security Council Resolution 1325.[30] Other charities and organisations create public awareness campaigns for both men and women which help them to become aware of their rights, the legal consequences for violent behaviour and the effects of gender-based violence on the future generation.[31] Plan International has introduced a Safer Cities for Girls programme which enables girls to voice any issues in urban areas and allows them to advocate for change.[32]

Supporting survivors of violence

Many charities and organisations have created support networks for victims of violence. CARE International works with partners to implement community support systems for victims of violence in order to ensure they are safe. Initiatives include community watch groups and safe houses.[33] Other organisations such as International Medical Corps provides specialised support services for survivors of gender-based violence in emergency settings. Survivors are provided with tailored support from workers who help them to access services and support. International Medical Corps have implemented women and girls’ safe spaces in camps and communities in Iraq and have trained Iraqi and Syrian women to provide support services to survivors. If survivors require more psychological support, they can be referred to Mental Health/Psycho-Social services.[34]


Overall, it is clear that gender-based violence remains prevalent in many countries throughout the world. Poverty along with gender inequality are the main drivers of violence against women and girls along with cultural and social norms. Violence often goes unreported meaning that perpetrators are not punished and continue to commit these acts of violence. Gender-based violence has many physical and sexual health consequences for women and girls. It affects them mentally and children who are born as a result of gender-based violence can also be indirectly affected. Charities and organisations around the world have introduced initiatives aimed at changing attitudes and norms within communities, advocating the introduction and amendment of laws and policies, and also offer services aimed at supporting victims of violence. In addition to the extensive work already being carried out by many charities and organisations, more groundwork, lobbying and collaboration with local authorities and community leaders is required in order to eradicate gender-based violence all together.

[1]Inter-Agency Standing Committee 2015, ‘Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action: Reducing risk, promoting resilience and aiding recovery’ <> accessed 25 October 2021

[2]World Bank Group, ‘Gender-Based Violence (Violence Against Women and Girls)’ <> accessed 25 October 2021


[4]UN Women, ‘Women and poverty’ <> accessed 25 October 2021

[5]NGO Pulse, ‘Gender-based Violence and Poverty’ <> accessed 25 October 2021


[7]UN Women, ‘Women and poverty’ (n 4)

[8]The Borgen Project, ‘Poverty and gender-based violence’ <> accessed 25 October 2021

[9]NGO Pulse, ‘Gender-based Violence and Poverty’ (n 5)

[10]The Borgen Project, ‘Poverty and gender-based violence’ (n 8)


[12]NGO Pulse, ‘Gender-based Violence and Poverty’ (n 5)

[13]United Nations, ‘A staggering one-in-three women, experience physical, sexual abuse’ (24 November 2019)

[14]World Health Organisation, ‘Understanding and addressing violence against women’ <;jsessionid=475E9CAE52F74885D38DEFDBA680079E?sequence=> accessed 25 October 2021

[15]NGO Pulse, ‘Gender-based Violence and Poverty’ (n 5)

[16]Inter-Agency Standing Committee 2015, ‘Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action: Reducing risk, promoting resilience and aiding recovery’ (n 1)

[17]Médicins Sans Frontières, ‘Sexual and gender-based violence’ <> accessed 25 October 2021

[18]World Health Organisation, ‘Violence against women’ <> accessed 25 October 2021

[19]Inter-Agency Standing Committee 2015, ‘Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action: Reducing risk, promoting resilience and aiding recovery’ (n 1)


[21]Médicins Sans Frontières, ‘Sexual and gender-based violence’ (n 17)


[23]Inter-Agency Standing Committee 2015, ‘Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action: Reducing risk, promoting resilience and aiding recovery’ (n 1)

[24]Berhanie, E., Gebregziabher, D., Berihu, H, Gerezgiher A., Kidane G.,‘Intimate partner violence during pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes: a case-control study’ Reproductive Health 16, 22 (2019) <> accessed 25 October 2021

[25]Ferdos J., Rahman M.M., ‘Maternal experience of intimate partner violence and low birth weight of children: A hospital-based study in Bangladesh’ PLoS ONE 12(10): e0187138 (2017) <https://> accessed 25 October 2021

[26]World Bank Group, ‘Gender-Based Violence (Violence Against Women and Girls)’ (n 2)

[27]UN Women, ‘Ending violence against women’ <> accessed 25 October 2021



[30]CARE International, ‘Challenging Gender-based Violence Worldwide: CARE’s Program Evidence Strategies, Results and Impacts of Evaluations 2011-2013’ <> access 25 October 2021

[31]NGO Pulse, ‘Gender-based Violence and Poverty’ (n 5)

[32]Plan International, ‘Gender-based violence’ <> accessed 25 October 2021

[33]CARE International, ‘Challenging Gender-based Violence Worldwide: CARE’s Program Evidence Strategies, Results and Impacts of Evaluations 2011-2013’ (n 30)

[34]International Medical Corps, ‘Focused support services for survivors of gender-based violence; Gender-based Violence Prevention & Response’ <> accessed 25 October 2021

Street Children With Disabilities: Poor Health and Violence

young boy looking scared, hiding between some wooden planks.

Impacts Of Living with Disability As A Street Child: Poor Health & Violence

Living on the street

Some street children are forced to live and fend for themselves with no adults to care for them. This can be due to illness, exclusion or humanitarian crisis (1). For example, the HIV pandemic and ongoing war in many countries has left many children orphaned (1). This has forced more on to the streets (1). Others still have families to return home to at night but work on the street to contribute to their family’s income (2). Regardless, street children are more likely to be affected by disability due to poor health and violence (1). Disability also makes children more vulnerable to illness and violence. Many children with pre-existing disabilities often end up on the street due to discrimination and rejection from their communities (3).

Poor health in street children

Children living with disability are at greater risk of illness, which can be partly due to difficulties in accessing health services (4). For example, children with disabilities commonly receive fewer essential vaccinations and basic healthcare (5). Similarly, the poor health and illness suffered by street children is often as a result of poverty and limited access to healthcare (7). This suggests that also living with disability exacerbates the poor health experienced by street children. Almost all street children experience health problems, relating to growth, violence and infectious diseases along with mental illness and substance abuse (8). In addition, a study carried out in Alexandria in Egypt found that 83% of street children were malnourished (9). This is not surprising, but it highlights how the health of almost all street children can be affected by poverty.

Street children also suffer from disproportionately high levels of HIV / AIDs, overlapping with other groups affected by HIV, including intravenous drug users (10;11). As a result, there have been specific targets of HIV/AIDs interventions towards street children. While these have been effective, further progress will better protect street children and those with disability from illness. Railway Children is an organisation which works at three levels to better support all street children (12). They work at street level and community level to work with people directly and also at government level to influence policy for better protection of street children (12).

Abuse and violence in street children

Both street children and children with disabilities are more susceptible to violence (5). Studies carried out in Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt found that as much as 93% of street children had experienced harassment and abuse (11). Most of this abuse was by police and other street children (11). In addition, research shows that children with disabilities are as much as three times more at risk of violence than non-disabled children (5). Exclusion and sometimes a lack of care can leave them more vulnerable to harm, where they viewed as ‘easier targets’ (5).

Improving the health of street children with disabilities

It has been suggested that the creation of safe shelters could help improve poor health (8). These would be very helpful in providing safe spaces for street children and those with disability, which would limit their risk of harm (8).  However, beyond support by charities and other non-governmental organisations, there is a need to introduce new policies which better protect street children (8).

Chance for Childhood works with KUAP to support street children and street children with disabilities, in Kisumu, Kenya (13). Unfortunately, COVID-19 forced them to pause much of their work. In response, remote counselling had been arranged for some of the children (13). However, KUAP has also continued to supply food packages to 60 local families with children struggling with dysphagia. This programme has been essential in helping to improve the health of street children and those with disabilities. KUAP also tries to reunite street children with their families. (13).

There are some positive steps in place to improve the poor health of street children with disabilities. However, more help is urgently needed, which is why here at Poverty Child we are dedicated to supporting street-connected children. We would be grateful for any donations. If you wish please donate to Poverty Child.


1.     Child S. The Facts about Street Children | Consortium for Street Children [Internet]. Consortium for Street Children. 2021 [cited 24 August 2021]. Available from:

2.     On International Day of Persons with Disabilities we Advocate for Inclusive Education — Street Child [Internet]. Street Child. 2019 [cited 24 August 2021]. Available from:

3.     Our work / Toybox [Internet]. [cited 24 August 2021]. Available from:

4.     Kuper H, Monteath-van Dok A, Wing K, Danquah L, Evans J, Zuurmond M et al. The Impact of Disability on the Lives of Children; Cross-Sectional Data Including 8,900 Children with Disabilities and 898,834 Children without Disabilities across 30 Countries. PLoS ONE [Internet]. 2014 [cited 24 August 2021];9(9):e107300. Available from:

5.     World Health Organization & United Nations Children’s Fund (‎UNICEF)‎. (‎2012)‎. Early childhood development and disability: a discussion paper. World Health Organization.

6.     Panter‐brick C. Homelessness, poverty, and risks to health: beyond at risk categorizations of street children1. Children’s Geographies [Internet]. 2004 [cited 25 August 2021];2(1):83-94. Available from:

7.     Cumber S, Tsoka-Gwegweni J. The health profile of street children in Africa: a literature review. Journal of Public Health in Africa [Internet]. 2015 [cited 25 August 2021];. Available from:

8.     Cumber S, Tsoka-Gwegweni J. The health profile of street children in Africa: a literature review. Journal of Public Health in Africa [Internet]. 2015 [cited 25 August 2021];. Available from:

9.     Salem E, el-latif F. Sociodemographic characteristics of street children in Alexandria. East Mediterranean Health Journal [Internet]. 2002 [cited 25 August 2021];8(1):64-73. Available from:

10.  Marshall B, Kerr T, Shoveller J, Montaner J, Wood E. Structural factors associated with an increased risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infection transmission among street-involved youth. BMC Public Health [Internet]. 2009 [cited 25 August 2021];9(1). Available from:

11.  Nada K, Suliman E. Violence, abuse, alcohol and drug use, and sexual behaviors in street children of Greater Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. AIDS [Internet]. 2010 [cited 25 August 2021];24(Suppl 2):S39-S44. Available from:,_abuse,_alcohol_and_drug_use,_and_sexual.5.aspx

12.  Fighting for Street Children [Internet]. [cited 25 August 2021]. Available from:

13.   How we’re supporting vulnerable children during Coronavirus | Chance for Childhood – Children’s charity [Internet]. Chance for Childhood. 2020 [cited 25 August 2021]. Available from:


Girls’ education

Girls in school uniform

Every child should be afforded the opportunity to attend school and learn the fundamental skills required in life. Education allows children to grow and develop important knowledge in order to strive and succeed in their future lives. Whether a child should have access to this should not be based on his or her gender. Nevertheless, for children living in poverty, it is mostly girls who are deprived of this which leads to gender inequality. According to UNICEF, around the world, 129 million girls are not in school. This includes 32 million girls of primary school age, 30 million girls of lower-secondary school age and 67 million girls of upper-secondary school age.[1] Statistics show that only 49% of countries have an equal number of boys and girls in primary education and this percentage lowers at secondary school level with only 42% of countries having an equal number of boys and girls in lower-secondary education and 24% in upper-secondary education.

In this article, we will firstly look at the reasons as to why girls are prevented from accessing education in many countries worldwide. We will then consider why it is crucial that girls can access education. Lastly, we will explore some of the projects and initiatives set up by charities which aim to help girls access education.

Barriers preventing girls’ education

Girl reading textbook at school


Poverty is one of the main drivers behind girls’ lack of education in many countries around the world. According to the World Bank Group, girls who belong to a family with little income, live in remote locations, have a disability or who are part of a minority ethno-linguistic group are the most behind in terms of accessing and completing education.[2] Families with little income often do not have the money to pay for schools and costs related to schooling such as textbooks, uniforms, transportation and supplies.[3] Therefore, if there are multiple children in a family, boys are usually favoured when it comes to education and girls are asked to help around the house and look after siblings or family members.[4]

Child marriage

Sadly, poverty also results in child marriage which is another reason as to why girls lack education. As stated by Dolores Dixon, Executive Director for Camfed in Canada, “parents who can afford it would not necessarily hold back their children from going to school but if you can’t afford it you will then have to make a choice…they feel [marriage] is the best option within the limited options”.[5] Girls who marry at a young age are less likely to attend school and are more likely to complete less years of education and have children at a young age. The World Bank Group has reported that girls who have been in secondary education are up to six times less likely to marry as girls who have not been educated.[6]


Girls are often subjected to violence on their way to school and also within schools which prevents them from attending school and dropping out. ActionAid has reported that in the Upper West region of Ghana, girls have to walk long distances to school. More than 50 girls a year are abducted and subjected to sexual violence or sexual exploitation on their way to school.[7] Girls are mostly in danger during the rainy season where attackers hide in the long grass waiting for girls on their way to school.[8]

Girls also face gender-based violence within schools which significantly impacts their physical and mental health and consequently leads to them dropping out of schools. Studies have shown that many schools lack facilities which make them safe such as perimeter fences and well-lit pathways.[9] Nora Fyles, Head of Secretariat for UN Girls’ Education Initiative has stated that “[girls] don’t think about learning when they’re trying to figure out what the next exit is or whether they can go to the toilet and be safe”.[10]

Gender biases in schools

Many practices and facilities within schools are discriminatory towards girls which also results in girls not being able to attend school or dropping out. A lot of schools do not have water, sanitation or hygiene facilities which accommodate girls, for example separate toilets for boys and girls.[11] Marni Sommer, Associate Professor in Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University, has noted that “[t]here is shame, there’s embarrassment…I’ve been in countries where girls thought if they told anybody [they were menstruating] they’d die”.[12]

Furthermore, in a lot of countries, teaching methods, practices and syllabuses are not gender-neutral which results in gender biases and stereotypes against girls and women.[13] A lot of the time, teachers have not been told how to respond to gender-based violence in schools and do not know how to help girls with issues they have. This leads to girls not feeling comfortable, safe or secure within schools.

Reasons as to why education is important

Breaks poverty cycle

There are several reasons as to why it is as important for girls to access and complete education. Firstly, if girls are educated, they are more likely to attain better paid jobs and earn more money which helps to break the poverty cycle. This in turn creates additional opportunities for girls and women and can contribute to economic growth. According to the Malala Fund, more women in work can add up to $12 trillion to the global economy.[14]

Furthermore, educating girls provides them with core skills which allows them to take up more complex leadership roles such as in politics. This helps them to create effective change, participate in decisions affecting their families and communities, and advocate for future policies.[15] It also reduces the gender gap within jobs and allows everyone to be entitled to the same opportunities.[16]

Reduces child marriage and improves the health of girls

Allowing girls to access education also means that they are less likely to marry at a young age and drop out of school. ActionAid has reported that in 18 out of 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage, girls who are not in schools are up to six times more likely to marry young than girls who have been educated at secondary level.[17] Educating girls means that they have more control over their lives and will be less likely to suffer from domestic violence.[18]

Additionally, girls who stay in schools are less likely to become pregnant or give birth at a young age which decreases infant and maternal mortality rates.[19] Research has shown that in sub-Saharan Africa, the birth rate among girls who have been educated at secondary level is four times less than girls who have not been educated.[20] Furthermore, well-educated girls are less at risk of contracting HIV and are more likely to utilise methods to prevent diseases such as malaria, for example, by using bed nets.[21]

Helps to prepare for natural disasters

Studies have shown that educating girls is also useful for climate change and preparing for natural disasters. Brookings Institution has reported that girls who are secondary level educated are the most cost-effective and most effective investment against climate change.[22] They have knowledge about how to cope when there is a natural disaster or when there is severe weather due to climate change and as a result, less deaths or injuries occur within families and communities.[23]

Ways to help girls access education

Happy children at school

One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to ‘[e]nsure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ by 2030.[24] However, there is a lot to be done in order to reduce gender inequality in schools and allow more girls to access education around the world. Many charities have set up projects and initiatives and some of these are outlined below.

Helping girls get to school safely

As mentioned previously in the article, girls are often at risk of being abducted and are subjected to sexual violence or sexual exploitation whilst making their way to school. Therefore, it is crucial that there are plans to help girls get to school safely. ActionAid have implemented an initiative where they provide bikes to girls which shortens the long and dangerous route to school and means that girls do not have to leave very early in the morning when it is still dark outside.[25]

Eliminating gender inequality in schools

It is also important to remove gender inequality and stereotypes within schools. UNICEF is carrying out work whereby they aim to help governments implement gender-responsive budgets and impose national education policies and plans which promote gender equality. UNICEF is also developing secondary education initiatives which aim to remove discriminatory practices and look at menstrual hygiene practices in schools.[26]

Sponsoring a child

Through many charities such as ActionAid or World Vision Canada you can sponsor a child which helps to tackle poverty and ensures everyone obtains an education.[27] Sponsoring a child can help provide basic necessities to families in poverty. It can also help to pay for school fees, equipment and materials associated with schooling such as textbooks. Additionally, it can help to pay for a school building in the place where the child lives. ActionAid has successful changed girls’ lives in Zanzibar. It has been reported that through sponsorship, a school, nursery and hospital were built and children now have somewhere they can go.[28]


Overall, it is clear that both boys and girls should have the right to education and equal opportunities in life, however, in many countries, girls are prevented from being educated which leads to gender inequality. Barriers include poverty, child marriage, violence and gender biases in schools. Educating girls helps to break the poverty cycle, reduces the number of child marriages and improves the health of girls, and it helps families and communities prepare for natural disasters and climate change. Several charities around the world have implemented initiatives and projects which aim to improve girls’ education. Nevertheless, more work needs to be done in local communities in order for the gender gap in education to be eliminated altogether.

[1]UNICEF, ‘Girls’ education’ <> accessed 30 September 2021

[2]World Bank Group, ‘Girls’ Education’ <> accessed 30 September 2021



[5]Laura Paddison, ‘Educating girls: the key to tackling global poverty’ The Guardian (04 October 2017)

[6]World Bank Group ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 2)

[7]ActionAid, ‘Girls’ Education’<> accessed 30 September 2021


[9]World Bank Group ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 2)

[10]Laura Paddison, ‘Educating girls: the key to tackling global poverty’ (n 5)

[11]World Bank Group ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 2)

[12]Laura Paddison, ‘Educating girls: the key to tackling global poverty’ (n 5)

[13]UNICEF, ‘Girls’ education’ (n 1)

[14]Malala Fund, ‘Girls’ education’ <> accessed 30 September 2021

[15]ActionAid, ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 7)

[16]UNICEF, ‘Girls’ education’ (n 1)

[17]ActionAid, ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 7)

[18]Theirworld, ‘Girls’ education’ <> accessed 30 September 2021

[19]ActionAid, ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 7)

[20]Theirworld, ‘Girls’ education’ (n 18)


[22]Malala Fund, ‘Girls’ education’ (n 14)

[23]Theirworld, ‘Girls’ education’ (n 18)

[24]United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Sustainable Development <> accessed 30 September 2021

[25]ActionAid, ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 7)

[26]Leah Rodriguez, ‘7 Obstacles to Girls’ Education and How to Overcome Them’ Global Citizen (24 September 2019)

[27]ActionAid, ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 7) and World Vision Canada, ‘Girls’ education: facts and how to help’ <> accessed 30 September 2021

[28]ActionAid, ‘Girls’ Education’ (n 7)