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Child mental health emerging from the shadows
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Child mental health emerging from the shadows

With suicide and self-harm now leading causes of death and injury among young people between 15 to 19 years, UNICEF and WHO are coming together for the first time at the Leading Minds for children conference to tackle the growing scale of mental health disorders among children and young people. On World Mental Health Day (10 October) this interview, extracted from the full podcast, presents a fascinating discussion on this emerging global priority for children and young people.   [caption id="attachment_2203" align="alignleft" width="300"] Dr. Vikram Patel[/caption] Sarah Crowe: As a specialist in mental health over many decades, how do you see the scale of mental health concerns facing children today? How has it evolved over the last 30 years since the convention of the rights of the child? Vikram Patel: Mental health in the global context has been the orphan child of global health, and children's mental health has been the orphan child of global mental health. The real scale of the crisis is that we know so little about mental health problems in children in the global context and that the overwhelming majority of children who are already experiencing mental health problems receive neither the recognition, nor do they receive any form of intervention that we know can transform their lives. If you had to ask me what is the actual proportion of children who suffer this kind of neglect, I would say that in most parts of the world - particularly in low income countries - it is virtually 100 percent of children. I think this is the real scale of the crisis: the complete lack of recognition of the mental health needs of children globally. ...the focus of children's health and well-being has moved from children surviving to children thriving. SC: Is it true to say that for underdeveloped countries or communities, mental illness in children is becoming more apparent? VP: Absolutely. I think that is certainly one reason why children's mental health is emerging as it were from the shadows as the focus of children's health and well-being has moved from children surviving to children thriving. It's becoming very apparent that to thrive one needs to have good mental health and that children's mental health problems become more visible, as childhood mortality and physical causes of sickness become much better controlled. Thankfully, it's emerging from the shadows. SC: Can you take us through the child mental health risk factors? At which points in a child's development do they arise? VP: In the earliest years of childhood, the major concerns are those to do with early-life brain development. Intellectual disability and autism being the examples of what some refer to as developmental disabilities. In middle childhood, you begin to see the emergence of emotional disorders, particularly, anxiety disorders. And in adolescence you see the greatest surge of emotional and behavioral disorders, particularly in post puberty years, where you see the emergence of mood disorders, self-harm behaviors, conduct problems and substance use conditions. So, you see quite different conditions occurring at these broad developmental phases of early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence.   Find out about the World Mental Health Day 2019 "A Day for 40 Seconds of Action Campaign"   SC: What about the growth of gender fluidity, or young people choosing actively to associate themselves with being non-binary or searching and exploring a new identity? Is this influencing adolescent mental health at this vulnerable stage of their lives? VP: I don't think this is necessarily a recent development. I think this has historically always been part of our sexual identity, but that it has been more suppressed by rigid and inflexible social norms for a very long time. And I think we should celebrate the fact that many of those orthodox and rigid social norms are being challenged now. And so that it gives greater freedom of space for young people to reject the binary approach of sexual identity. Obviously, where mental health problems arise is when they encounter continuing rejection of those identities by orthodox social norms. Let's be honest: in most parts of the world, orthodox social norms continue to be a major cause of mental health problems. And this has to do not only to fluid gender identity, but with a variety of other denials of autonomy and freedoms that young people continue to experience in many populations around the world. [caption id="attachment_2214" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Rondiney Diniz, 20, looks at his mobile phone, inside his home in the city of Fortaleza, in Northeastern Brazil.[/caption] SC: Has the digital era created greater burdens, greater levels of toxic stress? VP: I certainly think there are unknown perils to do with the digital world. Particularly in childhood and early adolescence, when the brain is very rapidly developing. It is very plastic, it's responding to the environment in exquisitely sensitive ways. And if that environment is one in which you've replaced interaction with real people with a digital world in which your interactions are with virtual people, it's hard for me to know exactly what that impact might be on the brain, but it's not something that we were evolutionary developed to deal with. I think the jury's out about the exact nature of those risks. SC: You've written a lot about the prevention of mental illness and authoritative parenting. What can teachers, caregivers, parents do to put their children on the right path to mental health, whether it's online or off line? VP: Authoritative parenting, in my mind, is the balance between laissez faire parenting - which says, 'whatever you want to do is fine' - and this is different from authoritarian parenting - which says, 'whatever I want you to do is the only acceptable way to do it'. Authoritative parenting is recognizing the growing needs for autonomy as a child transitions into adolescence and then ultimately into young adulthood. It is really a fine art. There isn't necessarily a set of rules that one can apply to identify when a child is entitled to be making more and more decisions of their own. In terms of what parents, children and teachers can do, one most important thing is that we know about children's mental health. While all mental health problems will finally involve some biological dysfunction in the brain, we also know that the most profound influences on brain development and mental health are in the environment. A single way of describing what promotes good mental health is that the environments are nurturing and that they provide a secure space for young people and children to express themselves and be heard. [caption id="attachment_2157" align="alignleft" width="300"] Clcik the image to hear the full interview with Dr. Patel covering a wide range of key issues on global child and youth mental health.[/caption] SC: How helpful do you think the Convention of the Rights of the Child has been in prompting action against the worst side of stigma, which often leads to horrendous abuses committed by states, communities, families? VP: I think the convention's been a singularly important tool to enshrine the right for a child to live in an environment which is free of fear, of abuse, of neglect and of violence. I think it has been the foundation for many legislations in countries around the world that protect children. However, it would also be fair for me to say that in most of these countries, the actual implementation of these aspirations in the real world has been marred by a number of different barriers. Not least, the fact that most states are unable to in fact see the child as being autonomous from their parents and it is the home environment, especially in early childhood, when so much of the neglect experiences occur. SC: And can you share examples that show these violations up for what they are? Could you give us something you might have seen or experienced or heard from young people? VP: The most important violation is growing up in extreme poverty, in circumstances where parents are unable to provide their children with the necessary emotional nurturing that is so essential to their development and well-being. So, this is not about parent blaming: I want to really stress that. I want to emphasize that families are caught in a vicious trap of poverty, and the failure of the state and of society more generally to recognize children's needs in those extremely marginal settings is what I consider the single biggest threat to well-being in the global context. SC: If we could look forward what are the trends that you see unfolding? What makes you most optimistic about the prevention, care and treatment of mental illness? VP: What gives me greatest hope is the recognition of mental health more generally and children’s mental health more specifically. Mental health is being seen as a global priority. This is not something I witnessed 20 years ago and the very fact that UNICEF, for example, is championing children's mental health, is a sufficient indicator of that transformation. I also see a wonderful opportunity because of the science that we have, of neurodevelopment, clinical and public health interventions for children. We are not working in a vacuum of knowledge. We actually have a lot of things we know can be transformative. I think the real challenge is delivering what we know can be transformative. Another major challenge of course is the continuing stigma attached to the discussions around mental health and well-being. Adolescents don't like to see doctors for any condition, not least for their mental health. Because of a very narrow medical approach to child mental health it is rejected by most children and adolescents. We need to put them front and center in thinking how that should be done. SC: “Nothing about us, without us” is the way forward and we hope to be able to take this on very seriously, going forward to Leading Minds 2019.   Dr. Vikram Patel,  professor of global health at the Harvard University School of medicine and co-founder of Sangath Foundation in India . His work over the past two decades has focused on reducing the treatment gap for mental disorders in low resource countries.  Dr. Patel will be a keynote speaker at the first Leading Minds 2019  conference at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in Florence, Italy.    
Turning the tide together on mental ill health for children
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Turning the tide together on mental ill health for children

In some way, mental ill health has touched everyone. The statistics are alarming, and by some accounts constitute a public health emergency. Today, around 10-20 per cent of all children and adolescents suffer from some type of mental health disorder and mental health conditions account for around 16 per cent of the global burden of disease and injury among adolescents. Worldwide depression is among the leading causes of disability among young people and suicides are the third leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide, and the second among 15-19-year-old adolescent girls. Fifty percent of mental health conditions arise before the age of 14, and 75 per cent by the mid-20s. Given the age-sensitive nature of predictors, early life investment makes good sense. However, globally relatively small sums have been allocated, with an estimate of less than 1 per cent of national health budgets in low-income countries being devoted to mental health. Yet the economic cost of mental health is enormous, amounting to around 4 per cent of GDP. Evidence supports early investment -- if left untreated, it is estimated that mental health disorders which emerge before adulthood can impose a health cost 10 times higher than those that emerge later in life. mental health disorders which emerge before adulthood can impose a health cost 10 times higher than those that emerge later in life. Emerging evidence indicates that the prevalence of mental ill-health is growing. Issues such as climate change, environmental degradation, unplanned and rapid urbanization, migration, demographic transition, youth unemployment, and technological leaps are implicated. These may have profound impacts on the minds of children and young people. Yet we know very little today about how to manage or harness these changes to improve the mental wellbeing of children. The 2018 Lancet Commission report compellingly illustrated the value of addressing mental health to advance a number of sustainable development goals. This suggests that effective mental health interventions may be potential development accelerators – with provisions that lead to progress across multiple SDGs. In the context of shrinking fiscal space, this makes it a highly desirable area of investment. [caption id="attachment_2167" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Rafeya Akhter Moni, 14, plays a game with friends at a UNICEF-supported Adolescent Club near her home in Dhaka’s Duaripara slum. Twice each week Moni and 35-40 other young people have the opportunity to get together and be ordinary teenagers in a safe space.[/caption] More work is needed to examine the state-of-the-art evidence, and the corresponding programmatic and policy responses on children’s mental health in the first decade of life, beginning in utero, through the first five years, and then into middle childhood (5-9 years). The evidence agenda is clear: we need to look at the latest findings from neuroscience; the overall prevalence and spread of mental ill health across ages and geographies; causes and contributing factors; and methods of preventing and treating mental ill health. These are all important parts of the puzzle, and critical to the response effort. Adolescence is a critically important stage of life when many of the mental health conditions prevalent in adulthood first manifest, and also the most challenging time for those entrusted with the care and protection of young people to reach them with solutions. Addressing the mental health of our children is imperative. Greater leadership and political commitment on policy, research and implementation is needed to turn the tide and advance healthy minds and healthy bodies of children and young people. A dedicated global plan or alliance through a shared value partnership for the mental health of children and young people is long overdue. On November 7 – 9 2019, UNICEF and WHO will convene a conference co-chaired by UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore and WHO’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The Inaugural Leading Minds for Children and Young People conference will focus on advancing the global agenda on mental health in children. This first year will bring together a broad array of the world’s thought leaders and decison makers – from academia, business, civil society, government, international development, philanthropy and of course, children and young people – to accelerate global progress to respond to this neglected issue. This will be the start of a critical conversation about what is needed to ensure children grow up with ‘healthy minds and healthy bodies.’ Throughout, the focus will be on the scale of the challenge and the proven and promising solutions to meet it. The conference’s final session will conclude with a deep dive into the pathways that global actors can take to tackle the issue of child and youth mental health. Crucially the voices of children living in challenging situations will be central. Sessions will be co-designed and run with and by the Youth Leaders of the conference. We need to understand and listen to them: their emotions, fears, coping strategies, and hopes. We need to engage with how they cope, what they do to support others, and what must be done for young people themselves to feel supported and thrive in a complex world.   Priscilla Idele is Director of the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti; Prerna Banati is former Deputy Director at UNICEF Innocenti and currently UNICEF Regional Advisor on Adolescent Development and Gender; David Anthony is Chief of Strategy and Policy at UNICEF Innocenti.
The forgotten minority: A personal story sheds light on the added dangers facing migrant girls and women
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The forgotten minority: A personal story sheds light on the added dangers facing migrant girls and women

Maryama* is just 17 years old, but already she has attempted to migrate from Hargeisa in the Horn of Africa to Europe twice. While most migrants face harrowing journeys, her story can help us understand some of the additional challenges facing young women and girls on the move in the Horn of Africa. She was interviewed as part of a broader study on the situation of children on the move in the Horn of Africa carried out by the Innocenti Office of Research.   The forgotten minority Conversations about migration are often focused on young men. To a certain extent, this focus is understandable. Although statistics on those who begin the journey are difficult to obtain, we do know that those who arrive in Europe are predominantly male, between 67-73% according to the Pew Research Center. But women are also on the move in significant numbers and their experiences both mirror and differ from those of their male counterparts.   In search of a better life The first time Maryama left home, she was 13 years old. At the time, she didn’t have a “clear vision on how and why. The only thing that I knew was that I wanted to go to Germany because I heard that those who immigrate get money and a better life.” Maryama’s focus on finding a better life is shared by the majority of young people who participated in this research. For them, a better life means a better job and enhanced educational opportunities. As Maryama says, “I did not go to school… My family never treated the girls and boys of the family equally, they always gave priority to my brothers, whether to send them to school or other things.” Other young women interviewed for this study echoed this sentiment, stating that boys are always given priority in their families.  Women in northern Somalia generally have lower levels of education and experience higher rates of unemployment than their male counterparts. For example, 30% of the girls that we interviewed had no education, compared to 12% of boys. In this context, it is unsurprising that lack of education drives young women to migrate. There are also reasons for leaving that affect women in particular. Maryama left home a second time at 14 years old to avoid being forced into marriage. In her words: “my family was forcing me to marry an old man. I didn’t even know him, and I didn’t want him, so I decided to leave the country any way I could.” While the search for jobs and education are often then most common reasons for leaving, some girls also cited physical abuse within their families as a driver.   Maryama’s first journey Once she decided to migrate, Maryama looked for a smuggler to assist her. “I told some friends whom I knew could get information and contacts because they had friends who had immigrated before. Then a few days later, they told me I had contact and I should get ready.” Like many young people interviewed, however, Maryama did not have the funds to travel. She stole some gold earrings and sold them to finance the first part of the trip. The costs at this first stage tend to be small, so selling possessions or stealing small items is a common way to get started. Maryama got as far as Bosaso in north-eastern Somalia before her father and brothers found her as she was waiting for a boat to take her on to Yemen. “When I got up, I found my father and my brother in the house. I have no idea who told them where I was.” They took her home. “It was shocking, of course, but there was no choice but to go back with them.” I am also afraid my brothers may kill me if they hear that I tried to migrate again. Her story is similar to those of many other young migrants who are stopped mid-journey by relatives. This helps explain why many young people plan their journeys and leave surreptitiously. Most rightly assume that their parents would oppose their decisions and seek to prevent them from leaving if they knew. Many young migrants, both male and female, reported that they were scared of their parents’ reactions to their migration and that this discouraged them from reaching out for help. Young women, however, sometimes expressed fear of violence, not just anger and disappointment. In Maryama’s words, “My father didn’t threaten me. He was so happy to see me alive, but my brothers did threaten and even beat me… I am also afraid my brothers may kill me if they hear that I tried to migrate again.” Maryama, like other young woman who seek to leave, also faced stigma in a culture that expects women to stay at home and which can interpret their movement itself as an abandonment of virtue.   A perilous route The second time she left, Maryama once again found a smuggler through friends, but this time she got much farther, as far as Libya, but faced many more difficulties. The night she left, she says, “my life changed because I started to realize what it meant to be abused, hungry, and thirsty.” She took a bus from Hargeisa to Wajaale and then on to Jigjiga in Ethiopia. Here she was held by smugglers for 18 days before they gathered a large enough group to continue to Addis. She stayed in Addis for another ten days. During this time, she says, “we did not have enough to eat or drink and all the men and women slept together in a hall.” From Addis, the group moved on to Sudan. On the way, she faced a danger to which young women are particularly vulnerable – sexual violence. “To reach Sudan we walked for hours in very scary places for five days. We met some guys and they raped some of us. Me, fortunately I wasn’t because I was the youngest and shortest one and I pretended to be married to one of the other migrants I was travelling with.” The situation further deteriorated in Libya, where smugglers demanded ransom from her: “Smugglers asked us to pay US$7,000-$10,000. They tortured us whenever money was delayed and my family couldn’t avoid paying all this money. Smugglers tortured me, abused me and did whatever they wanted.” Eventually she was approached by an NGO that offered to assist her to return.   [embed]https://soundcloud.com/unicef-office-of-research/child-migration-horn-of-africa[/embed] A new beginning I called my family, but they wouldn’t believe me and told me. ‘you are not our daughter because our daughter is in Libya,’ and cut the call…. When I came home everyone was shocked because they thought I would never reach them alive. She returned by road and when she finally arrived back her family greeted her with disbelief, “I called my family, but they wouldn’t believe me and told me. ‘you are not our daughter because our daughter is in Libya,’ and cut the call…. When I came home everyone was shocked because they thought I would never reach them alive.” Maryama is currently being assisted by the General Assistance and Volunteer Organization (GAVO), which is supported by UNICEF, to learn tailoring and improve her livelihood prospects for the future. “My plan in the future is to be a tailor and stylist in the country and produce a very unique product. Good hope came to my life and I’m very happy for it.” Maryama hopes that she can get support to start her own business when she finishes the course. She wishes that others like her can be assisted through initiatives for youth businesses, education, and vocational training. Such efforts can contribute significantly to reintegrating individuals, like Maryama, who are struggling to build a new life for themselves at home. Lives that they might not even have imagined possible before they left.   Maryama’s story is one of many encountered in Innocenti’s research on the situation of children on the move in the Horn of Africa. The results of the first phase of this research were published in July 2019 as “No Mother Wants her Child to Migrate: Vulnerability of Children on the Move in the Horn of Africa.” Additional publications are forthcoming.   * Name changed to protect the privacy of the individual.   Olivia Bueno is the lead researcher and author of ‘No Mother Wants Her Child to Migrate: Vulnerability of Children on the Move in the Horn of Africa’. She has been working on migration and human rights issues in the Horn and Great Lakes regions of Africa for the last fifteen years. She has consulted with a number of organizations in the region, including local women’s and human rights organizations. She is also a co-founder of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, a non-governmental organization based in Kampala and conducting research and advocacy on both the causes and consequences of displacement. She has a Masters degree in International Affairs from the School for International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.  
Partnering with youth to research the challenges facing young people in the Horn of Africa
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Partnering with youth to research the challenges facing young people in the Horn of Africa

Hargeisa city is a fast-growing urban environment that remains safe, unlike many parts of the region. Yet young people living in the city face a myriad of challenges. Unemployment is high amongst youth, and poverty is widespread. In this context, it is not surprising that young people think of a life abroad. “I couldn’t afford a university education, and I couldn’t find a job,” said a young Somali who tried to get to Europe. “I have multimedia skills, but I still couldn’t find a job. I wrote a dozen CVs, but organisations would just throw them away.” To understand the situation of young Somali’s like the youth quoted above, I joined a research study conducted by UNICEF’s Office of Research - Innocenti along with its partners at the University of Hargeisa, School of Social Work. Like so many Somali young people, the students are concerned about their futures, about the prospect of finding jobs when they graduate and challenges they will have in supporting themselves and their families who have invested in their education. Migration is such a prominent feature of life in the region that I don’t doubt every one of the researchers I worked with has asked themselves the question of whether to stay or go. Understanding the situation from a research perspective started with a crash course, with me as an instructor, on research methodologies, research skills, interviewing techniques, and ethical concerns. We mapped out what we sought to understand and why. The interview map included a series of questions sketched out to be adapted to each respondent and our procedures. I observed the student interviews, provided feedback, and then conducted several interviews alongside the university students to demonstrate different qualitative research techniques. The process was enlightening, as student reflections were not limited to the research skills I was teaching, but also the subject matter of the deeper issues, including drivers of migration; the social, political, familial and economic challenges of young people; their hopes and aspirations. “It dawned on me that this research provided an incredible opportunity for the students to reflect on the real-life impact of these issues.” The student researchers were grappling with personal opinions, experiences, struggles and aspirations as young people; but they were not outsiders looking in to another society, as I was, they were part of it. It dawned on me that this research provided an incredible opportunity for the students to reflect on the real-life impact of these issues. They had a unique opportunity to listen to the experiences of other young people – people who might be their clients (as social workers) in the near future. Social workers in the region are in short supply and have large caseloads which limits the time they can spend with each individual client. This research offered an opportunity to take time and simply listen to young people reflect upon critical social issues. What do we do if a child tells us that he/she wants to migrate? [caption id="attachment_2031" align="alignleft" width="300"] On Mubarak's first journey abroad, Mubarak went to Ethiopia. In his second he went to Sudan. On his third trip he was hoping to make it to Europe. "I left Hargeisa because of a lack of work here," Mubarak explains.[/caption] The questions raised during the training revealed the innate ethical concerns that most of the students had about their work: What do we do if a child tells us that he/she wants to migrate? Should we warn them about the dangers? Should we tell their parents? How can we reconcile confidentiality with the potential danger a child can face? On many occasions, once on the ground, students faced challenges and obstacles which required adaptation and creativity to overcome. Despite the support offered by supervisors and UNICEF, students had to be creative and quickly adapt new strategies. I witnessed genuine growth in their self-confidence as their engagement and ownership of the research developed; it was a completely new and exciting experience for many of them. As one of the students said, “Now I can do another piece of research like this.” A supervisor shared that one student was able to find another job – “because of this training she was able to convince them that she had the expertise to do the job.” The experience has encouraged some of the students to continue with further research on those issues which were not fully addressed by the project. It has also had an impact on the school of social work at Hargeisa University, which is building its reputation as a credible research partner – and motivated the dean to pursue its own research agenda. I am sure the students are proud of the report published today. Seeing the findings in writing and disseminated globally demonstrates the value of their work and I hope it inspires them. For now, the student researchers have all decided to stay, but they have all had friends or relatives who have left. These researchers are a critical part of this story, the publication was enriched by their contribution, and their insights are the essence of the key findings revealed in this publication. However, the pressure remains as long as the deeper issues stay unresolved. I hope we can continue to include young people in our research, not only as respondents in a research exercise, but also as participants constructing and writing the stories that we read.   Olivia Bueno is the lead researcher and author of ‘No Mother Wants Her Child to Migrate: Vulnerability of Children on the Move in the Horn of Africa’. She has been working on migration and human rights issues in the Horn and Great Lakes regions of Africa for the last fifteen years. She has consulted with a number of organizations in the region, including local women’s and human rights organizations. She is also a co-founder of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, a non-governmental organization based in Kampala and conducting research and advocacy on both the causes and consequences of displacement. She has a Masters degree in International Affairs from the School for International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Pinocchio on trial: Who is guilty?
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Pinocchio on trial: Who is guilty?

Pinocchio is sitting at the defendant’s seat with his lawyer, when the judges enter the hall. On one side the prosecutor looks at him grimly, with the Cat and the Fox, Mangiafuoco, the puppet master, and the teacher next to him. On the other side, the father Geppetto, a poor woodcarver, and the Fairy with the Turquoise Hair, the fictitious mother who Pinocchio never had, wait for their turn in silence. All of them will tell about Pinocchio’s behavior - the good and the bad. Around the courtroom, the mood was grim as a trial was about to begin. The accusations against Pinocchio were serious: playing truant from school; lying; betraying the trust of those who loved him, being a slacker. At the prosecutor’s request the witnesses repeat, one by one, the same story: Pinocchio is an unruly, ungrateful and listless child, fully aware of his misdeeds, therefore he is guilty and punishable. Only his lawyer, with the Turquoise Fairy and Geppetto, defends Pinocchio, speaking loudly the language of love and care: he is just a child whose rights have been violated. And in a few seconds the accusers are turned into accused: "Parents, teachers and governments, as duty bearers, are called to help children and young people to enjoy their rights. But Pinocchio was abandoned by all of them!” the lawyer thunders. At the reading of the sentence, the judge is inflexible, ruling in the language of rights: “A child is always a child. Parents and every institution have the responsibility to ensure, within the limits of their possibilities and their financial means, all conditions necessary for the full development of a child, in the best interests of the child.” Pinocchio is not guilty! Nobody could have imagined - 30 years ago - to apply the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to one of the most well-known children’s stories in the world: “The Adventures of Pinocchio",  about the famous animated puppet who, after going through a series of troubles, finally becomes a child.   [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WOD7AY5EyQ[/embed] [caption id="attachment_2017" align="alignleft" width="300"] Children participate in "Pinocchio on "Trial" in the hall of the Italian Parliament on May 20, 2019.[/caption] “Pinocchio on Trial” occurred in the hall of the Italian Parliament on May 20, 2109, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the CRC, organized by the Italian Committee of UNICEF and the Chamber of Deputies Presidency. Students of a second-grade school and their teachers presented an exciting theater piece, sending a clear and strong message to the hall, full of authorities, children, and parents for the occasion: Pinocchio can only become a real child through the help of the adults who have the duty of protecting and caring for him. “Pinocchio on Trial" was the brainchild of Emilia Narciso, a member of the Italian UNICEF National Committee. In her story, Pinocchio becomes an allegory of the journey from childhood to adulthood in modern society, with its contradictions and difficulties in ensuring that every child has the future he/she is entitled to. Leaving the Parliamentary hall, each of us reflected: who is the Cat and the Fox today? Who is Mangiafuoco, or Lucignolo, the bad friend? Who is the Turquoise Fairy, Geppetto or the Talking Cricket? Everyone could relate because, as the Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce said: "Humanity is the wood in which Pinocchio is carved”. Patrizia Faustini is Senior Communication Associate at UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti.
How does UNICEF maternity leave compare with EU and OECD countries?
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How does UNICEF maternity leave compare with EU and OECD countries?

If UNICEF were a rich country instead of my employer, it would rank 24th out of 41 EU and OECD countries in the league table of our new report “Are the world’s richest countries family friendly?” on the indicator of full-rate equivalent childcare leave available to female staff (see figure below, which shows where UNICEF would fall among 41 countries).This may not sound generous compared with countries like Estonia and Hungary, where mothers can stay at home until the child’s third birthday and earn the equivalent of more than 70 weeks at full pay for an average earner. But on a closer look, UNICEF’s policy is pretty good.Consider the concept of full-rate equivalent. It combines the duration and generosity of childcare leave so that we can compare policies across countries. It is the number of weeks of leave multiplied by the rate of pay (for an average earner). But in practice are 20 weeks on full pay really the same as 40 weeks on half pay?Only six countries out of 41 allow female employees on average earnings stay at home at full pay for the whole duration of their leave: Mexico (12 weeks), Israel (14 weeks), the Netherlands (16 weeks), Spain (16 weeks), Chile (30 weeks) and Lithuania (62 weeks). Compared to these countries, UNICEF’s provision of 24 weeks at full pay is only behind Chile and Lithuania.When I gave birth to my child in 2016, as a UNICEF staff member, I took advantage of 24 weeks at full pay. I would not have wanted to stay at home for nearly a year on half my pay instead. I was eager to resume my full responsibilities and was keeping up with office developments. I took part in key meetings, worked on research papers, increased my Twitter following and prepared for the launch of my edited book Children of Austerity. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AH6O6l8O0rs[/embed]A study on maternity leave policies offered by universities across the United Kingdom shows that institutions with more generous maternity benefits (over and above national statutory provision) have a higher share of female academics who passed productivity-based promotion hurdles in their child-bearing years to become professors. Institutions that employ high-skilled staff do their best to give them incentives to stay.Yet well-paid leave is just one part of the story. I would not have managed to get any research done while on maternity leave or sweep into my old job as I returned from leave if I had been the sole carer of my child with no resources. Between the end of my maternity leave and the start of my child’s nursery entitlement at 12 months I’ve scrambled together a combination of: annual leave, having my partner stay home full-time with the child, unpaid help from extended family and paid babysitters.I was privileged to have had these options. What about those who do not?Note: entitlements in place as of April 2016.Source: OECD Family Database (Table PF2.1).Read more: Global indicators of family policies compiled by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. An OECD brief ‘Parental leave: Where are all the fathers? Men’s uptake of parental leave is rising but still low’ (2016) Yekaterina Chzhen is the lead author of the newly released UNICEF report “Are the world’s richest countries family friendly?”. Follow her on Twitter @kat_chzhen. The Office of Research–Innocenti, is UNICEF’s dedicated research centre. It undertakes research on emerging or current issues to inform the strategic directions, policies and programmes of UNICEF and its partners, shape global debates on child rights and development, and inform the global research and policy agenda for all children, and particularly for the most vulnerable. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Responding to screen time concerns: A children’s rights approach
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Responding to screen time concerns: A children’s rights approach

Over the past decade there has been escalating concern that the time children spend using digital technology might be harmful. Calls have been made to protect children by restricting the amount of time they spend in front of digital screens. But recently there has been a change in tune, following research showing that the effects of screen time on children may be too small to warrant such restrictions.In other words, we don’t have enough evidence to inform policy on child screen time. These views were echoed in an inquiry into the impact of social media and screen-use on young people by the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee. They highlighted methodological and practical issues with existing research, such as misinterpreting small effect sizes and focusing on statistically significant rather than meaningful effects. Similar concerns were reported by UNICEF Innocenti in an evidence review from 2017, which called for an improved research agenda in this field.[caption id="attachment_1929" align="alignleft" width="1024"] Young people finding amusement online in Dili, Timor-Leste.[/caption]As expressed in a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, the pleasure children derive from digital technology is often seen in a negative light by adults; even though they would agree that digital technology is important for living a full life and developing one’s potential. Rigid screen time rules may have deprived countless of children of freedom to pursue their interests in a digital world. Parents have been put in the role of policing rather than coaching children’s digital engagement.Children have an extraordinary capacity to learn and develop when motivated by genuine interest and provided the right opportunities. Cultivating their intrinsic motivation – through education or play – is critical for learning outcomes. As Roger Hart writes in an essay on children’s participation published by UNICEF Innocenti in 1992, “much of play is a training ground for later participation with adults in work: learning the properties of materials, developing physical skills, exploring tool use, and social cooperation.”For these reasons, play is enshrined as a fundamental right of all children. It is recognised as being essential to the development of creativity, imagination, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and a range of social, cognitive and emotional skills. Digital technologies can facilitate this development, albeit in new ways that older generations may not yet fully appreciate.Today virtual platforms and social networks forge new cultural environments for play and artistic opportunities that can broaden a child’s horizons, provide opportunities to learn from other cultures and traditions, experience autonomy, and contribute toward mutual understanding and appreciation of diversity.In other words, we don’t have enough evidence to inform policy on child screen time.This autonomy, where children and adolescents participate and make their own choices, express their own views, and take responsibility, is not a binary state, but rather depends on a young person’s evolving capacities – maturity, skills, and abilities. Therefore, a delicate balancing act needs to take place – between a child’s right to be protected, and their right to have progressive autonomy in making decisions about their lives. Unfortunately, Hart notes, children are the least listened to members of society and have limited opportunities for genuine participation, in part because adults underestimate their competence. Moreover, opportunities for free play with peers are declining due to a combination of forces: fear for children’s safety, parents’ work patterns, and growing pressures for academic achievement.[embed]https://soundcloud.com/unicef-office-of-research/screen-time-children[/embed]This is highly relevant in contemporary debates around children’s use of digital technologies. Digital media has become the primary means through which young people play, communicate, receive, create, share information, and express themselves. Young people explore their identities online, access health information and sources of advice and counselling, learn about their rights, report abuse or violations, express opinions and engage civically and politically with governments and the world around them. The internet has become a powerful vehicle through which young people can overcome forms of discrimination or exclusion, to participate and be heard in meaningful decision-making processes, and exercise rights on their own behalf.However, nearly 30 years after Hart’s essay, the barriers that prevented children’s play and participation in the 90s still prevail, now limiting children’s rights and freedoms in the digital environment. In making a case for a UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) General Comment on Children’s Rights and Digital Media, researchers argue that in order to shift adult thinking on the digital environment, children’s rights (including to participation and play) must be emphasized within popular and policy debates around digital technology.A rights-based perspective on children’s engagement with digital technology is useful for at least three reasons: It makes clear the need for integrated perspectives: All of children’s rights need to be considered together, meaning that the right to protection from harm cannot supersede the rights to participation, privacy, play, education, freedom of information or expression. It emphasizes that children should be consulted on decisions concerning their use of digital technology: Article 12 of the UNCRC states that children have a right to be heard in matters that concern them, and that their views should be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child. It acknowledges the obligation to ensure that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in all actions concerning the child: Article 3 of the UNCRC calls upon all actors to ensure that children’s beset interests are at the heart of these conversations. To achieve this, guidance and policy needs to draw on children’s own voices and experiences.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGYQGvL1kww[/embed]By consulting with children on how to best balance their use of digital technology, we could help them turn digital technology into a tool for creative expression, participation, play or learning. Schools could teach children how to search for high-quality information and distinguish fake news through their mobile phones. In doing so, they will be training children to use technology purposefully while negotiating and overcoming its distracting elements. Learning how to stay focused on a task despite technological interference will likely be an important skill in the future.Piaget found that children learn best not by unequivocally accepting what authority tells them is right, but when, through discussion and cooperation, they can form their own views and reach consensus. As Hart states, when seen in this light, children’s participation is not just an approach to developing more socially responsible and cooperative youth; it is the route to the development of a psychologically healthy person.It is entirely possible to make digital technology work in children’s best interest. This will require less alarmism in the public debate and greater respect for children’s opinions. Daniel Kardefelt-Winther is UNICEF Innocenti's lead researcher on child internet use, online safety and child rights.
Getting the ‘development’ right in sport for development
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Getting the ‘development’ right in sport for development

Getting the ‘development’ right in sport for development (S4D) means that on the pitch, disabilities are dissolved into strengths. It means that traditional ‘no girls allowed’ attitudes are torn away. It means that children’s voices are valued in both the planning and the playing, and real efforts are made to protect children from violence. Because when S4D gets the ‘development’ right, sport is more than just a game.Approximately 1 in every 500 children around the world take part in S4D initiatives. These children face risks that include poverty, violence, poor health, learning disabilities and ethnic discrimination. It is universally known that sport is a fun and engaging way for children to be active and develop skills, so it is no surprise that they are drawn to S4D by the appeal of sport activities. However, once they are hooked, children are involved in programming that develops soft skills, promotes social inclusion, empowers young people and aims to reduce negative behavior.  In other words, these children come for the sport and stay for the support.Children come for the sport and stay for the support.When sport’s potential is harnessed, it can also play a critical role in achieving development outcomes for children and society. For S4D programming to be effective, however, it is crucial for policy makers and practitioners to understand the development component of S4D. Thus, the UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti, generously supported by the Barça Foundation, conducted a first-of-its-kind study to comprehensively map the global evidence on S4D for children. The aim is strengthening the evidence base on the implementation and impact of S4D policy and programming for children. Through an integrative literature review, systematic mapping of available evidence, and global surveys of S4D programmes, the study: Getting Into the Game: Understanding the evidence for child-focused sport for development, analyzed programme design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation systems to understand what works in S4D.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Vdm4eQlonE[/embed]Findings from the research revealed that football was the most common sport found in S4D, used by 42 per cent of surveyed programmes around the world. By striking the right balance between sport and non-sport activities, S4D initiatives can have an important impact on children’s education, social inclusion, protection, and empowerment. They can increase children’s engagement in learning, improve their attainment of life skills and support their access to and participation in initiatives and services.However, the research also suggests that achieving development goals through sport cannot be taken for granted. Children’s engagement with sport does not always translate into skills development, better relationships with adults and greater self-esteem and efficacy. It is not a given that by playing together, children with different abilities or from different backgrounds will build bonds that promote social inclusion. Nor are sports settings always the safest places for children to be.To become more than just sport, S4D programmes must be designed well. The report’s key recommendations include that in order for S4D to achieve complementarities at the community and system levels S4D practitioners should: Focus on linking activities with development outcomes through specific strategies and objectives; Design programmes that include an adequate balance of sport and non-sport activities; Facilitate multisectoral collaboration; Tie sports into existing social programmes; Establish settings where negative societal views and family disapproval do not become barriers to initial and continued participation; Purposefully facilitate greater family and community engagement, such as through consultation forums and festivals that share knowledge; Balance coaches and staff in terms of gender and diversity of experience; and Provide training for and monitoring of child safeguarding procedures for all interacting with children and young people.To continue getting the ‘development’ right in S4D, a second phase of research will test current findings from this first phase and develop primary data collection tools to further understand the common characteristics and practices in S4D.To further promote the translation of the research into practicable action, UNICEF—in partnership with the Barça Foundation and in collaboration with an international S4D for Children Working Group—is developing an S4D for Children Framework and accompanying toolkit for policy and programming by 2021. The Working Group members met in March in Barcelona to share their expertise and experience from the field and were subsequently joined at the report launch an auditorium full of S4D stakeholders who voiced their enthusiasm for the same message: that when S4D gets the development right, sport is more than just a game! Sarah Fuller is an education research assistant for the S4D project at UNICEF Innocenti. Juliana Zapata is an education research associate and coordinating the S4D project at UNICEF Innocenti. Read our report: Getting into the Game: Understanding the evidence for child-focused sport for development   Watch the launch event partnership with UNICEF and the Barça Foundation. 
Are children equipped to navigate post-truth societies?
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Are children equipped to navigate post-truth societies?

In 2014 the World Economic Forum called the rapid spread of misinformation online one of the ten most critical issues for our societies. A 2016 Stanford study of 7,800 student responses from middle school to college highlighted discomforting results. Researchers found that students had a “dismaying inability” to recognize the difference between: fake and real news, advertising and journalistic writing, neutral and biased sources and fake and real social media accounts. Results of the Stanford survey “shocked” the researchers, they said. According to the Global Digital Report from We Are Social and Hootsuite, in 2018 there were 4 billion people worldwide using the internet, and nearly a quarter of a billion new users had come online for the first time in 2017. The global number of people using social media has grown by 13 percent in the past 12 months, with Central and Southern Asia recording the fastest gains (up 90 percent and 33 percent respectively). Children comprise approximately one in three of all internet users, as explained in the UNICEF Innocenti Discussion Paper One in Three: Internet Governance and Children’s Rights. In more developed countries, children under the age of 18 comprise approximately one-fifth of the population; in less developed countries, however, children constitute a substantially greater percentage of the total population – between one-third and one-half of the population. The complexity of the information environment that news consumers are immersed in today requires new abilities and skills to navigate safely. The rapid spread of ‘fake news’ has amplified the necessity for all internet users to learn how to separate fact from fiction, how to recognize the difference between opinion and facts. As more and more people rely mostly or entirely on internet news sources, it is increasingly difficult for them to maintain the capacity to distinguish between true and false, good and bad, and right or wrong on many practical issues. Children and young people tend to be avid users of social media. As shown in a recent UNICEF Innocenti paper, the impact of digital technology use can have positive impacts on children’s mental well-being. However, relatively little research has been conducted on children’s exposure to false or misleading content and online interactions.   [caption id="attachment_1908" align="alignleft" width="1429"] An adolescent girl checks her mobile phone on a street in the Southeastern state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.[/caption]   While the overall trend of youth literacy (aged 15-24) is positive, in a society where objective facts are becoming less influential than emotion and belief in shaping public opinion, education systems can miss an historical opportunity to provide children with the skills and tools necessary to critically assess information sources. How can we prepare savvy citizens to quickly separate myth from fact? How can we ensure young people do not lose their connection to the bulk of reliable inherited scientifically verified knowledge?  And then how can research matters to reduce inequality and increase educational opportunities if evidence is constantly discredited by counter-narratives propagating appeals to emotions and personal beliefs? Although research and evidence can be bent for special interests, post-truth epistemology cannot simply be reduced to “denying truth and giving all opinions equal weight.” On the contrary, schools and educational curricula can and must play a critical role in equipping children to recognize misinformation Although research and evidence can be bent for special interests, post-truth epistemology cannot simply be reduced to “denying truth and giving all opinions equal weight.” On the contrary, schools and educational curricula can and must play a critical role in equipping children to recognize misinformation and to tackle its spread online by cultivating truth-based reality through critical media literacy and historical analyses. Andreas Schleicher, education director of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, is planning to include questions about distinguishing what is true from what is not true in the next round of the influential international PISA tests. According to him, the scope is “to test children about their ability of engaging with diversity, to be open to that, to draw value out of it, and to see diversity not as a problem.” The same aspects are also measured by UNICEF Innocenti’s Global Kids Online survey and will be the focus of an upcoming synthesis report due towards the end of 2019. A recent study shows that the spread of misinformation is driven by several mechanisms that create false beliefs, which once adopted, are rarely corrected. Content-selective exposure is the primary driver of content diffusion, and leads to the generation of homogenous clusters –  echo chambers – which have their own cascade dynamics.  Selection of information based on harmony with personal beliefs and “vision of the world” create a “comfort zone” where people feel safe. The lack of mediation between the news source and the final user gives rise to increasingly polarized and homogenous communities having similar consumption patterns. Members of these polarized communities then tend to read and discuss only what confirms their original convictions and beliefs. Developing critical thinking skills is one of the main objectives of an educational science of any time and today it remains one of the main antidote to the spread of fake news. How to force students out of their comfort zones and to break those echo chambers is still part of a debate among teachers and educators and maybe there is not one single answer. Interesting perspectives, ideas, strategies can be found on the net that suggest how to develop the ability of students to judge the credibility of information that comes from smartphones, tablets, and computers, but it is still a work in progress. All too often young people are seen as easily manipulated political storm troops where adults “exploit” them. If children and youth were truly treated as rights holders and provided –  by educational systems as duty bearers –   with the ability and skills to enjoy their “right to information” maybe they would be less vulnerable to these bubbles and echo chambers. The internet stimulated a great acceleration of globalization. And while many communities reaped the reward from increased communication and interaction between diverse cultures and peoples, mono-culture pockets defined and strengthened by post-truth echo-chambers were also propagated. The online debate on immunization, which has recently led WHO to raise the alarm about a dramatic increase in measles infections and outbreaks in Europe, shows how the circulation of fake news can potentially have even life-threatening impacts. How to help children and young people navigate fake news and misinformation online is one of the key questions for education in the years ahead. Patrizia Faustini is a Senior Communication Associate at the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti.
Do countries have fiscal space for universal child grants?
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Do countries have fiscal space for universal child grants?

It is a known fact that in nearly every country, children are more likely to live in (monetary) poverty than adults (19% versus 9% respectively in 2018). This has immediate effects on the well-being of children, their development prospects and consequently their adult life. Cash transfer programs targeted at the poorest households have become one of the key policy tools for ameliorating the situation with a proven track record of success.However, contemporary approaches to targeting are notoriously error-prone. Deserving groups may be excluded, some miss out due to fluid transitions in-and-out of poverty. Cash transfers are operationally costly, and sometimes give rise to intra-community tensions. Some cash transfer programmes impose conditions that diminish dignity, re-enforce gender stereotypes that exacerbate women’s time poverty, or promote political patronage.Universal child grants are monthly cash transfers that are provided to the caregiver of every single child that lives in a defined jurisdiction – perhaps only subject to legal status requirements. Universal child grants are proposed as a possible solution to fix these challenges associated with the targeted cash transfer schemes. They can essentially reduce child poverty to the bare minimum or eradicate it altogether. Two obvious objections are the fiscal implications of full coverage and the potential unintended negative consequences (such as increasing fertility or reduced labor supply).Universal child grants are monthly cash transfers to the caregiver of every single child that lives in a defined jurisdiction.[caption id="attachment_1890" align="alignright" width="221"] Click image to access the report.[/caption]Recently UNICEF, ILO and the Overseas Development Institute convened an international conference to explore arguments and evidence from implementation of alternative cash transfer schemes and their implications for universal child grants. (Find all key conference background documents – agenda, session recordings, participant list, concept note here) I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at this conference and am eager to share key takeaways and reflections.First, it would be better to use the word ‘benefits’ in place of ‘grants.’ While this may sound like mere semantics, the word ‘benefits’ frames the proposition as a need to fulfill an entitlement: a positive right, not the idea of a favour, which the word ‘grants’ is more associated with. If there are no costs associated with changing the framing, I would think ‘universal child benefit’ would be more appealing term, but I will stick to ‘universal child grant’ for the rest of the this post.The next three takeaways are communicated in three numbers: 35, 8 and 1.5.35% of children/households receive child/family cash benefits globally. Differences exist across countries and regions with 88% coverage in Europe and Central Asia, 28% in Asia and the Pacific and 16% in Africa. Given the large shares of children in Africa and Asia, these figures imply that almost two thirds of children (1.3 billion) are not covered by any form of social protection. Some 23 countries already have non-contributory universal child grants while an additional 40 countries have non-contributory means-tested schemes, and there are a lot of lessons learnt from these schemes to inform other countries in design and implementation. (Click on the report cover image to download the full ILO-UNICEF report)8 policy options have been proposed for creating fiscal space in national budgets to fund universal child grants outlined in this paper: Re-allocating of public expenditures; Increasing tax revenues; Expanding social security coverage and contributory systems; Lobbying for aid and transfers; Eliminating illicit financial flows; Using fiscal and foreign exchange reserves; Managing debt; and Adopting a more accommodative macroeconomic framework.The paper illustrates how Governments can apply them based on their unique circumstances. The authors contend that “fiscal space for social protection and the SDGs exists even in the poorest countries.”  Mario Györi showed how reallocating the funding for a current food and energy subsidy could create fiscal room to fund a universal child allowance, with greater impact on poverty.1.5% of GDP, on average, is required to fund universal child grants in various countries. An important contribution frm one session at the conference was that funding for universal child grants should be indexed as a share of government expenditure and not GDP, and I fully agree with this position. Linking funding to government expenditure would directly put the question of prioritization (not trade-offs) in focus.The World Bank and the IMF representatives in the final plenary agreed, in principle, to the idea of universal social protection for children (at least for those aged 0-2 years).  Michal Rutkowski, Senior Director for Social Protection and Jobs at the World Bank described the idea of supporting children (especially the vulnerable) and investing in their future as marriage made in heaven: good social contract and good economics.[caption id="attachment_1892" align="aligncenter" width="626"] Author's presentation at the International Conference on Universal Child Grants, Geneva. Click image to access slides.[/caption]Listening to presentations from different countries, it was clear that governments around the world recognize the need to progressively move towards universal child grants in some shape or form. There were discussions about administration and implementing challenges, and the question of the covering the last mile (reaching the hardest to reach). The question of benefit level and provision for the caregiver (or rest of the household) are also open questions for which there was not much time to cover.To achieve SDG goal 1.3 to implement nationally appropriate social protection systems for all children, the best route would be through universal child grants. They should be prioritized in government allocations as an important first step towards social protection for all. A global universal child grant fund – like the Global Fund for HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria should be created to accumulate enough reserve to finance grants starting with the poorest countries, and where political conditions are least favourable. These are often the very countries where child poverty rates are highest and where the investments would yield the highest returns. Operational headwinds may abound but that should not be enough justification for delaying action. I look forward to the final publications from the conference and the next steps in the space. Frank Otchere  Social Policy Specialist at UNICEF Innocenti, is a Statistician and Demographer by training, and has worked on several Transfer Project impact evaluations, including Ghana, Malawi and Zimbabwe. 
Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women
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Unleashing the Potential of Social Protection for Adolescent Girls and Women

On March 12th 2019, UNICEF will co-host a side event to the sixty-third Commission on the Status of Women, together with the UK’s Department for International Development and GAGE Consortium managed by ODI, to share evidence and policy approaches to strengthen gender equality outcomes of social protection programmes, with a particular focus on adolescents and the safe transition to adulthood. Well-designed social protection can address risks and vulnerabilities across the life-course for girls and women, yet so often gender and age inequalities are not considered in social protection systems. Social protection is failing to deliver on this potential – missing the opportunity to benefit the most marginalized girls and women and risks widening inequalities even further. More work and investment is needed to make gender- and adolescent-responsive social protection a reality. Life-course risks and vulnerabilities are influenced by gender Women and girls face multiple barriers throughout their lives, such as limited access to basic services in education, health and nutrition; limited resources and assets including land and finance; and limited economic, social and political opportunities. Because they lack equal access to resources and assets, women and girls are less able to fully develop their capabilities, and ability to manage and mitigate the effects of risks and vulnerabilities. Women and girls face specific risks in different stages of their lives – adolescence, pregnancy and child birth – that are related to their biological sex as well as to entrenched gender norms that discriminate against them in diverse ways. For instance, more women and girls die before birth, in childhood, and during reproductive years than men and boys. Women and girls shoulder the greatest responsibility for unpaid care and domestic work – amounting to around 2.5 times more time than men. This limits their opportunities to access an education and take on paid work, and makes them more vulnerable to the impacts of poverty. This unpaid care and domestic work differentials between females and males start early in the life course and persist throughout their lives. This unpaid care and domestic work differentials between females and males start early in the life course and persist throughout their lives. Globally girls aged five to nine engage in household chores for an average of almost four hours per week, while girls aged ten to 14 years old spend around nine hours per week Unpaid care and domestic work among adolescents: staggering statistics 550 50% 2/3   Girls under 15 spend 550 million hours every day on household chores, 160 million more hours than boys   Girls 10-14 spend 50% more of their time on household chores than boys Of children performing household chores for 21 hours or more per week are girls   Adolescence is a transformative period to address gender inequalities and break cycles of life-course and intergenerational transmission of inequalities Adolescence is a period of life during which transformative change can be accelerated, and more equitable outcomes can be achieved for both girls and boys. It is a profound period of biological and psychosocial development when gender dynamics, relations, beliefs and norms consolidate for life. While children discover their gender and sexuality in their first years of life, it is during puberty and adolescence that gender starts to play a more defining role in their lives. Differentiations between females and males start to widen and become more entrenched, particularly roles within households, and in their relations with family members, peers and in their intimate communities. Yet adolescence is a formative stage of life, and interventions have shown to have an effect on modifying behaviours and outcomes, making this period a unique one for intervening through programmes and policies.vii Recent studies, including from low- and middle-income countries, suggest that this period could be a second window of opportunity in the life-course – where there is the opportunity not only to catch up and redress earlier negative experiences, but also to ensure that previous investments are not lost when children enter adolescence and face new risks and vulnerabilities. Tapping on this window of opportunity is particularly important - there are 1.2 billion adolescents worldwide, of which 90 percent live in low- and middle-income services, at risk of poverty, exclusion and vulnerabilities. Evidence demonstrates positive impacts of social protection programmes on adolescent well-being Evidence suggests that social protection systems  play a crucial role in lifting children and adolescents out of poverty and improving their well-being. These programmes can act as buffers against shocks, minimizing use of negative coping strategies such as withdrawing children from schools, sending them to work, or selling productive assets such as livestock. Governments have recognised this potential, and in the past two decades, many countries across Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East, have designed or expanded social protection programmes to families with children. Many of these programmes have been cash transfers to families with children, either unconditional or conditional onto certain behaviours such as school enrolment or attendance and visits to health centres for check-ups. Some countries have also established a path of progressive universalization of cash transfers, such as Argentina ix. Evaluations of these programmes have shown some positive results – ranging from school enrolment or even attendance, improved nutrition, reduced risky behaviours such as unsafe sex, multiple partners and early sexual debut for girls. For instance, the Zomba cash transfer in Malawi, which targeted girls aged 13-22 for two years, showed strong impacts on school participation by facilitating girls returning to school, as well as reducing early marriages and pregnancies, reducing risky sexual behaviours and HIV infection – although all these positive impacts lasted only for the short-to-medium term. The Malawi Social Cash Transfer Programme and the Zambia Multiple Category Targeted Grant, both government-run unconditional cash transfers targeted to ultra-poor, rural and labour-constrained households, have also demonstrated reductions in poverty and improved schooling outcomes among youth, although no effects on early unions or teen pregnancy were demonstrated. Despite this expansion, only 35 percent of children or adolescents on average across the globe have access to any form of social protection. And there are significant regional disparities: 87 per cent of children in Europe and Central Asia and 66 per cent in the Americas receive benefits; however only 28 per cent of children in Asia and the Pacific and 16 per cent in Africa. A gender and life-cycle lens is needed to strengthen social protection programmes to improve adolescent well-being Many programmes are not designed with gender dynamics in mind and others are either targeted at younger children, or at adult women and households more generally. Research in eight countries between 2009 and 2012 found very little or no attention to gender considerations in most social protection programmes. While some studies have found that cash transfers can have a positive impact on women’s economic empowerment by increasing women’s economic participation, few studies have systematically assessed the influence of design features on gender outcomes. Moreover many programmes, by identifying women as the transfer recipients, either as beneficiaries themselves or on behalf of their children, have at times unwittingly perpetuated the stereotype of women as primary caregivers. Among the few adolescent-targeted social protection programmes that have tackled child marriage as a primary objective, there is limited efficacy and sometimes even unintended negative effects. And in the case of humanitarian and conflict-affected contexts, while the risks of child marriage and coerced transactional sex are high, we also have very limited evidence on the efficacy of social protection programming. The absence of both gender and adolescent-responsive approaches creates a gap in adequate coverage throughout the life-cycle and across a range of risks, compounding vulnerabilities, increasing exclusion and perpetuating cycles of inequity. Much promise exists in new approaches to respond to adolescent and gender vulnerabilities by looking at social protection in conjunction with other social and economic policies, including infrastructure, health systems, education systems, and labour market systems. This article was written by Prerna Banati, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Elena Camilletti, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Roopa Hinton, UK Department for International Development (DfID), Shreyasi Jha, UNICEF Programme Division, Nicola Jones, ODI-GAGE, Muriel Kahane, ODI-GAGE, Atif Khurshid, UNICEF Programme Division. Read more about the event.    
Child’s Play: A Journey into The Jungle Shines a Light on the Lives of Migrant Children
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Child’s Play: A Journey into The Jungle Shines a Light on the Lives of Migrant Children

The lights dimmed and the theatre hushed. Spotlights swirled in the dark from one person popping up out of the darkness to the next as a late-night emergency meeting of refugees unfolded in front of us. I was at the Playhouse Theatre in London and then I was transported somewhere else.Set in a reimagined version of the ‘Afghan Café’, there we were, suddenly in the middle of The Jungle of Calais. The stage, set with a platform wrapping around tables, chairs, pillows, and posters, resembled a cozy yet provisional slum restaurant – I could almost swear I smelled spices matching the colours of the scene. Audience members sipped and nibbled as one character, and then another, jumped onto the stage in front of their tables.I sat perched above in the gallery looking down at the performance, listening as the actors – some of whom were actual migrants re-enacting versions of their experiences – shared incredible stories of hardship and hope from the border-town slum village that came to be called The Jungle.‘The Jungle’, which ended its West End run in London after I saw it in November, was picked up for a sold-out U.S. run at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York and will begin performances at San Francisco's Curran from March 2019. Months after my viewing, I’m still ruminating, lingering on the powerful stories told, and also, what we can learn from them.The play is a fictional portrayal and amalgamation of the realities of the men, women, and – notably – children who came to live at the edge of Calais in the so-called makeshift migrant city, which self-assembled and then was abruptly demolished in 2016. After surviving harrowing journeys from Africa and the Middle East, these asylum seekers made a home in The Jungle, as a stopgap, in limbo – hoping to make the final leap to the U.K., but many found themselves stuck there at the border.Little ‘Amal’ is a young girl in the play – she is an unaccompanied minor, often wandering about, on her own, clutching a ragged stuffed animal, or holding the hand of an aid worker, ‘Paula’, who takes her under her wing when she can. She has no parents, no healthcare, no education. Her story – that of child migrants – stuck with me.I watched as they celebrated her birthday with what little they had. She didn’t know her actual birthdate – since running from a war-torn country meant there were no official records – many celebrated their birthdays on January 1.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dagLsNoFe2M[/embed]Throughout the play, Paula is often the character taking care of Amal and also the one championing child rights – fighting to protect the children of The Jungle. She looks after Amal and cries out in anger that the International Convention of the Rights of the Child has been blatantly ignored in the context of migrant children. She is angry that the U.K. fails to live up to its commitment to reunite migrants with existing family members in the U.K, and even when it does, the children often have no support when they get there.As a new mother, I couldn’t hold back tears as, halfway through the play, images of Alan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy whose corpse washed up on the shore of a Turkish beach, lit up screens installed around the theatre. In the play, that viral news came to change the course of the conversation about the camp in Calais and on migration globally – as everyone finally asked: what about the children? [caption id="attachment_1820" align="alignleft" width="1536"] Mirzal, 16, arrived in Calais alone in 2015. Here he takes a nap at an Afghan barber’s shop in The Jungle.[/caption]The play starts and ends with the funeral of a young boy killed on a nearby roadway – a demonstration of the looming threat of life at the camp, and especially the dangers for migrant children. In the play, Paula notes that of 400+ children at the camp, about three quarters of them are unaccompanied. While the Calais Jungle became a cohesive, vibrant community, it wasn’t enough to protect the people and children who lived there, and there wasn’t a reliable system to help get them out.“Jumpers” – I learned – referred to migrants who would attempt to jump onto a truck going from Calais to the U.K. – It was incredibly risky and often children would lie about their age and then end up getting punished unfairly as adults for jumping – with no way to prove their age, or worse – would die in the act itself. Only a year ago a 15-year-old was crushed to death by a refrigeration truck – and this isn’t the only such story.At UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, where I’m proud to work, new research findings have the potential to transform the lives of children around the world. Our research on children and migration helps to fill in the gaps on why children migrate, the unknown threats and realities of children on the move, and how we can better protect child migrants.Like the play, 2017’s Best of UNICEF Research-winning report – Neither Safe Nor Sound: Unaccompanied children on the Coastline of the English Channel and the North Sea, available in English and its original French – dared to ask ‘What is the experience of unaccompanied children in France’s migrant camps?’The sociological study, undertaken by Trajectoires on behalf of UNICEF France, sought to understand and document the risks migrant children are exposed to throughout their migration journey and during their stay in camps.  The report made ten key recommendations to help protect child migrants and decrease their vulnerability: Create a place of ‘protection’ within sites, secure and specific to unaccompanied children. Guarantee all children equal access to information and various services through regular contact with professionals speaking the children’s languages and through the use of age-appropriate information. Support and coordinate those working on the region’s sites with the aim of implementing uniformity of practices and information distributed, enabling access to all children, including those within the smaller camps. Introduce regular training on child protection for the organizational workers, police forces, administrators and volunteers to help them identify situations involving human trafficking and provide guidance to unaccompanied children. Refer back to the legal framework for the protection of children, which includes the importance of reporting to Public Prosecutor’s departments, and of reporting unsettling information, which will allow the departmental councils to become empowered in their mission to care for children in danger. Report all evacuations if there are no adapted arrangements for the reception and guidance of unaccompanied children, to prevent a trend of dispersal and the breaking of the bonds that children and young people may have formed with social workers or other trusted adults. Ensure that the French and United Kingdom governments dedicate sufficient resources to the family reunification process, thereby significantly reducing the duration of this process to a maximum of three months. Ensure that children have received reliable information regarding the family reunification procedure under the Dublin Regulation, including the criteria on which decisions will be based. Guarantee access to high-quality legal assistance for unaccompanied children, so that their request for family reunification in the United Kingdom can be submitted as quickly as possible. Publish practical advice on how to handle family reunification cases under Dublin III, including clarification of responsibilities and processes in the assessment of the unaccompanied children’s families in the United Kingdom, ahead of transfers. Two plus years since the demolition of The Jungle, we are still learning the same lessons. While a mandate to prevent the creation of a new ongoing camp continues, hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants and children still occupy the border-town area, and raids persist against a looming Brexit to clear out new camps and prevent illegal crossings into the U.K. In many ways, nothing has changed, and what’s worse is that the journey and the hardship doesn’t end when they reach their destination.Once they get there, then what? The existing systems in place to support migrant children are letting children down. Mental health of these child migrants is seldom considered and last year alone, at least three teenage refugees who arrived in Britain from the migrant camp in Calais killed themselves.Research conducted by UNICEF has identified not only the experience children face while on their journey, but also the difficulties they face as refugees, lost in systems that don’t adequately meet their needs.UNICEF Innocenti’s recent report Protected On Paper? An Analysis of Nordic Country Responses to Asylum-Seeking Children goes further to analyze to what extent the rights of asylum-seeking children are respected and protected in Nordic countries, with specific recommendations for these country contexts as well as broader recommendations on how to strengthen and extend legal, policy and practice frameworks to ensure the full protection of child asylum seekers’ rights and entitlements.Even after they have arrived at their final destination, the struggle for many – especially for vulnerable children – to successfully integrate and enjoy a childhood, continues.Listen to our podcast: The Role of Research on Migration: Insights on Migrants’ Experiences with Bina D'CostaRead more:Child-related Concerns and Migration Decisions: Evidence from the Gallup World PollA Child's Crisis: Why the Refugee and Migrant Crisis Should Matter to Us AllKathleen Sullivan is a communication specialist at UNICEF Innocenti who is passionate about finding narratives that drive change. Follow Kathleen @ksulli on Twitter, and for more updates from UNICEF Innocenti, follow @UNICEFInnocenti.
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