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Leading experts meet to review evidence gaps on children and care work

Whether they mind their siblings, look after the sick and elderly, or lend a hand with household chores, children are engaged in providing care the world over. However, most care work performed by children remains invisible, taking place in private spaces, away from the public eye and far from government policy agendas. In order to foster discussion on the issue of children and care work in low and middle-income countries, UNICEF’s Office of Research - Innocenti recently convened an expert’s round-table in Florence. The meeting was attended by a group of leading scholars in relevant fields. “We would like to start a conversation on how care work impacts on children’s well-being,” said Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF Innocenti, “The aim is to bring together the evidence and create a narrative that can help put this issue on national and global policy agendas.”The discussion drew on expertise across a range of research and practice sectors – child rights, gender, care, economics, social policy, time-use analysis and social statistics – to explore the relationship between care provision and child well-being. Topics discussed included the distribution of care responsibilities among household members, and between family, society and the state; the impact of women’s employment on care provision and outcomes for children; different models for the provision and financing of care, and research methods and the availability of data.The special nature of care work and the complexity of distinguishing between different forms of care were examined. Diane Elson, of the University of Essex, stressed the need for a clear distinction between paid and unpaid care work, and between care work and other forms of domestic work. The important concept of a “threshold” for bench-marking when care work may lead to positive or negative impacts on child well-being was also discussed. Elson noted that an essential component of care work is an emotional element in the relationship between the carer and person cared for – whether provided by a family member, or through social or other services. This relationship can have positive consequences for a child’s well-being and needs to be recognised in any response. Surveys and qualitative research conducted among child caregivers in Latin America and Africa show that when children care for close family members, they may gain skills, have positive experiences and learn from adults and elders. They may gain an increased sense of self-esteem due to recognition received for their contribution to the well-being of their family. Children may thus need to be supported in their role as carers, rather than having this responsibility removed from them.Understanding when care work shifts from being a positive to a harmful experience for children is an important challenge. Shirin M. Rai, at the University of Warwick, highlighted the difficulties in identifying such “thresholds” which depend on numerous factors. These include the age of the caregiver, the emotional involvement of the child, the nature of tasks being performed, the context in which they are carried out and the amount of time and responsibility involved. Elsbeth Robson, of Hull University, pointed out that it is important for government and policy makers to listen to the views of child caregivers. “In many countries young carers call for more support to carry on their care work,” she said. “They ask for solutions that can help them to free some time from care duties, share experiences among other child caregivers, while they continue taking care of family members.”The second day of the round-table was devoted to a discussion of data availability and research methods. Panelists highlighted opportunities and limitations of using qualitative and quantitative evidence, as well as the importance of longitudinal studies to track and understand the transitions of children into adulthood and their patterns of time use.In particular experts stressed the need of more qualitative research to better understand children’s engagement in care and domestic work, by matching data on time use with information about household socio-economic status, the quality of care and emotional engagement of children.Questions about ethics in data and research were also raised in the discussion. All participants warned about the need to be extremely careful when asking respondents for their time in the context of time poverty. Moreover, the issue of collecting potentially harmful or sensitive information when secure storage and archival is not assured was also addressed. Evidence generation is only the first step needed as part of a broader effort to trigger policy shifts on children and care work. Efforts need to be put in place to communicate evidence and advocate for policy change. However, policy change can be challenging in a context where children (and women) caregivers are often not politically represented nor organized or mobilized.After two days of detailed exchange enriched by the diversity of expertise among the participants, contributors expressed their willingness to continue dialogue, in order to shed more light on a global phenomenon that impacts profoundly on child well-being yet remains poorly understood and largely invisible to public policy.(9 January 2017)
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Council of Europe Parliamentarians discuss measures against online child sexual abuse

UNICEF Innocenti has hosted a major meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) where combatting online child sexual abuse was a major topic of discussion.The meeting, held in Florence on 1 December, brought together the PACE Network of contact parliamentarians from up to 16 countries together with representatives of UNICEF Innocenti, INTERPOL, Middlesex University and ECPAT International, among others.Members adopted the Florence Declaration which underlined the need for sound legislative frameworks based on the Lanzarote Convention to protect children from new forms of sexual abuse in the digital environment. The Lanzarote Convention commits 42 signatory countries in Europe and beyond to criminalization of all forms of sexual offences against children, and specifies adoption of legislation to prevent sexual violence and prosecute perpetrators. New forms of online child sexual abuse addressed in the meeting included: live streaming, self-generated images by children, online grooming and virtual reality. The ‘dark web’ was also cited as a part of the internet increasingly being used to share child sexual content online. The Declaration also recognised the need to support victims of child sexual abuse. “Online, children can encounter abuse and exploitation from peers and adults alike. Exposure to harmful material and violation of privacy are ever present concerns,” said Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe.“It is the responsibility of all of us to meet these challenges in a manner which is strategic, cooperative and has a firm grounding in human rights.”Cecile Diot, criminal intelligence officer at INTERPOL called for a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling the issue and told parliamentarians it was crucial for NGO’s, private companies and civil society to work ever more closely to overcome the problem. It was estimated 80 per cent of content on the so-called dark web was related to child sexual abuse, she said. ”Altogether we may have a chance to defeat this criminality. We need a network to defeat a network,” said Ms. Diot.  Talks also focused on supporting parents, families and caregivers in protecting and empowering children against sexual violence in the digital environment, a key part of the declaration adopted by MP's. “Parents are an example of how to behave and what to do. If we as parents are inseparable with digital devices, our kids will do the same,” said Sevinj Fataliyeva, a parliamentarian from Azerbaijan. Dutch legislator Johan Van Der Hout said efforts to tackle child sexual abuse online were primitive if children’s voices were not accounted for. He called for a child-centred approach to the issue. “We have to empower them [children] on the internet. We cannot take it away,” he said. The views were mirrored by criminologist and Middlesex University researcher Elena Martellozzo, who conducts research on how children feel when exposed to sexual content online. Ms. Martellozzo said children were being exposed to online sexual content at earlier ages and there is a need to better understand the impact. “We need to focus on empowering young children. We need to focus on what they can be exposed to so they can have a better online environment which is a wonderful environment,” she said. “Critically engage with them about the material they find online.”Researchers from UNICEF Innocenti also presented Global Kids Online as a model for improving evidence on children’s experiences online. The global Research Synthesis pilot study on child internet use conducted by UNICEF Innocenti and the London School of Economics explores the opportunities and risks of the internet for children. According to the study up to two thirds of children in some countries have seen sexual content online, while a minority had contact with unknown persons online. Despite potential risks, research showed that most children had met persons with some kind of prior connection to them, such as a fellow classmate or community member. Parents also reported low digital skills, complicating potential risks to children online.“The conversation of what children do online should be part of the general discussion with children. It backfires when trying to ban kids from using phones,” said Jasmina Byrne, child protection specialist at UNICEF Innocenti.“In order to combat sexual violence against children we need legal and policy measures above all.”(6 December 2016)
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45.8 million people in slavery, according to global estimates

Nearly 46 million people around the world are reported to be experiencing some form of modern slavery, according to the latest global estimates produced by the Global Slavery Index. The Global Slavery Index 2016, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, provides an estimate of the number of people in modern slavery as well as steps taken by governments to tackle the issue in 167 countries. Data shows 58 per cent of those living in modern slavery are in five countries: India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. Speaking at an Innocenti Seminar this week, Jacqueline Joudo Larsen of the Walk Free Foundation said providing accurate and rigorous data on the reality of modern slavery was crucial in effecting policy. “I think numbers play an important role in bringing attention to the issue and it does bring with it an urgency to policy response,” she said. “Our challenge is to get that number as correct as we can based on research. That’s where we’ll have the best impact.”  The Index also measures government action against modern slavery and comes with key policy recommendations for businesses and governments. Research shows that in some countries with high GDP rates, including Qatar and Singapore, policy responses are poor. The governments taking the least action overall include North Korea, Iran and Eritrea while the countries with the strongest responses include The Netherlands, the U.S. and the U.K. Strong political will, a strong civil society and adequate allocation of resources were defined as key components for effective national programmes to combat modern forms of slavery. Katharine Bryant, research manager at Walk Free Foundation told Innocenti staff gathered at the Seminar it was important for more countries to gather data directly from those who had experienced some form of modern slavery in order to better inform the research.“Very few countries take active steps to learn from survivor’s experiences, with regards to victim support or as participants in the criminal justice system. It’s really important that survivors of slavery are given the opportunity to feed in what the responses should be so that the research becomes more meaningful.”The Walk Free Foundation and UNICEF Innocenti researchers met this week in order to discuss opportunities for incorporating a child rights approach into the Global Slavery Index research. “Innocenti and the Walk Free Foundation would like to explore possible collaboration around modern slavery including methodological refinement and incorporating a better child lens to the instrument, as well as exploring areas of common interest such as child marriage, child labour, migration, wellbeing, trafficking and violence prevention more broadly,” said Kerry Albright, chief of research facilitation and knowledge management at UNICEF Innocenti. To produce the Global Slavery Index, random sample surveys were conducted in 25 countries. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with over 28,000 respondents in 52 languages using standardised instruments. Data was compiled from research instruments that represented 44 per cent of the global population in collaboration with Gallup. (25 November 2016)
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Impact of armed conflict on education: new evidence from Ivory Coast

A recent Innocenti Seminar presented evidence from a new study on the impact of armed conflict on children’s education and mortality. The study gathered data from Ivory Coast, a country that has been deeply affected by armed conflict since 2002. Despite the global commitments to ensure full and complete access to free quality education for every girl and boy, recent trends in universal enrolment registered a regression with around 58 million out-of-school children in the world, out of which 36 per cent living in countries that have been affected by conflict. Idrissa Ouili, Assistant Professor at High Institute for Population Science (HIPS) University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, statistician and economist with several years of experience in population policies, poverty, education, family planning and reproductive health issues, presented new evidence from Cote d’Ivoire about the impact of armed conflict in children’s education in an internal seminar at UNICEF Innocenti.The aim of the study, Armed Conflicts, Children's Education and Mortality: New Evidence from Ivory Coast, conducted in 2015 was to explore the impact of armed conflict on three different outcomes during the Ivorian armed conflict from 1999 to 2011: 1) school enrolment (probability of being enrolled in school); 2) school attainment (number of years of schooling for individuals enrolled in school); 3) under five child mortality.Using several sources of data, including the Côte d’Ivoire Demographic and Health Surveys, as well as data from pre-conflict and post-conflict surveys, Professor Ouili compared different cohorts of children who had one of more years of life affected by conflict, with groups of children that were not affected by conflict. Results show that in the group of children aged 6-18 in 2011, armed conflict decreased school enrolment by 10% compared with a group of same age in 1998; in the group of students aged 18-36 in 2011, those who were in schools during the conflict period experienced at least one year drop-out of schooling in average, compared with a group of same age in 1998. Lastly, in children aged 5-16 in 2011 armed conflict increased under 5 mortality rate by 3% compared with a group of same age in 1998.Professor Ouili is one of the four young African fellows coming to UNICEF Innocenti in 2016-2017 as part of a programme funded by SIDA. Fellows are collaborating with researchers in the Social and Economic Policy Unit at Innocenti and with country evaluation teams on specific research questions around the impacts of cash transfers on health, education, or multidimensional poverty utilizing Transfer Project data.Each fellow visits the UNICEF Innocenti for 2-3 weeks, during which time researchers also present a seminar on some of their past research. The remainder of the approximately 12-month fellowships are conducted from their home base.(18 November 2016)
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UNICEF RESEARCH BLOGS

From a human face to human emotion: valuing feelings in development

by Jose Cuesta
(2016-12-19) Thirty years ago UNICEF reminded the world that development had a human face.  Making up for the “lost decade” of the Eighties did not have to ...

Food for thought on measuring child food insecurity

by Audrey Pereira
(2016-12-09) Food is a basic necessity of life. You probably know the grim statistics: one in four children are stunted, approximately half of all deaths among chi ...
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INNOCENTI blogs

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