A call to action — #FightUnfair

Source: UNICEF

The life prospects of children trapped in intergenerational cycles of poverty and disadvantage might seem like a matter of chance – an unlucky draw in a lottery that determines which children will live or die, which have enough to eat, can go to school, see a doctor or play in a safe place.

But while children’s origins are largely a matter of fate, the opportunities available to them are not. They are the result of choices – choices made in our communities, societies, international institutions and, most of all, our governments.

We know that the right choices can change the lives of millions of children – because we have seen it. National action, new partnerships and global commitments have helped drive tremendous – even transformational – change. Children born today are significantly less likely to live in poverty than those who were born 15 years ago. They are over 40 per cent more likely to survive to their fifth birthday and more likely to be in school.

But far too many children have not shared in this progress.

Reaching these forgotten children must be at the centre of our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which pledge to leave no one behind. The 2030 goals cannot be reached if we do not accelerate the pace of our progress in reaching the world’s most disadvantaged, vulnerable and excluded children.

Unless we act now, by 2030:

  • Over 165 million children will live on no more than US$1.90 a day – 9 out of 10 will live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Almost 70 million children under the age of 5 will die of largely preventable causes – and children in sub-Saharan Africa will be 10 times as likely to die as those from high-income countries.
  • More than 60 million children aged 6 to 11 will be out of school – roughly the same number as today.
  • 750 million women will have been married as children. Read more

What it’s Like to be Married at 7 Years Old

Source: Huffington Post

A view of Pol-e-Charkhi, as seen from near the house of Spengul’s mom. — Photo Shougofa Alikozay/Huffington Post

For this 37-year-old mother of five, life is the picture of enforced marriage: she barely scrapes by on less than a dollar a day and cannot afford to take any of her children to school.

“I don’t want my daughter to suffer the same limitations and problems I have. I want her to marry when she is old enough, not in her childhood,” Spengul’s mom tells me when we meet in her mud and clay house in the dusty village of Pol-e-Charkhi, on Kabul’s outskirts. She abides by a rural Afghan tradition of not using her own name, and instead is called after her first-born child.

Spengul’s mom was married at just 7 years old to a man then in his mid-20s. For her impoverished family, the marriage offered some financial relief and a form of protection. “I was a child. How could I be happy?” she says. “How can a child without her mom and dad be happy in a strange house?”

But her husband turned out to be mentally unstable and addicted to opium, meaning she suffered neglect, unbearable loneliness and heartbreak. As soon as she started menstruating, at age 13, she conceived their first child. But with her adolescent body not fully developed and prepared for birth, and with no money for food and medicine, the baby boy did not have much of a chance. He died after a mere four months.

As is common in underage mothers, Spengul’s mom suffered physically after her first birth, and did not have another child for some time. Girls who give birth under the age of 18 can face many problems, including diabetes, anemia and heart disease, health experts say. She was lucky to have survived, especially as she was under the age of 15: Afghanistan has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, largely owing to the custom of enforced marriage of young girls and women. Poverty and a lack of sufficient calories worsen the problem. Afghanistan has the fourth worst mortality rate for children under 5 in the world, after Angola, Benin and Chad, with some 101 children dying for every 1,000 live births, according to UNICEF. Read more

Malaysian woman stands up against religious policing during Ramadan

Source: Asian Correspondent

Women in hijabs queue for food on the street in Kuala Lumpur. Pic: Peter Rowley / Flickr

A LOCAL activist has taken a stance against “moral and religious policing of Muslims in Malaysia, especially Muslim women”, sharing her own personal experience of not being allowed to eat in public during the month of Ramadan.

Over the weekend, “Mrym Lee” (as she is known on Facebook and Twitter), who wears a hijab, was subjected to rude behavior when she went to a restaurant at a shopping center in Kuala Lumpur in the daytime.

The manager of the restaurant, as well as various passersby, harangued her, with some claiming that she was “damaging the image of Islam” and “disrespecting those who were fasting”.

In a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, Mrym explained that she made a conscious effort for this year’s observance of Ramadan to protest against societal expectations by eating and drinking in public when she could not fast.

Screenshot via Twitter.

Screenshot via Twitter. Read more

Penang to hold talks with Islamic agencies to discourage child marriages

Source: The Malay Mail Online

The Pakatan Harapan Penang government is seeking to hold in-depth talks with the state’s Islamic authorities and Muslim groups to curb the existing practice of child marriages, state executive councillor Chong Eng said today.

The women, family and community development committee chairman said she hoped to rope in state Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim for the talks.

“We plan to do a consultation with him, the relevant Islamic religious agencies and Muslim groups to discourage child marriages and get Muslims to understand that child marriages is not good for the child,” she said after a roundtable discussion on child protection.

She said a report on the round table discussion will be presented to Abdul Malik, who was not present at the discussion, so that he could assist in arranging discussions on the issue with Muslim groups and Islamic religious authorities.

There is currently a conflict between civil laws and Islamic laws on the minimum legal act for marriages in Malaysia. For non-Muslims, the earliest they can tie the knot is at 18, although those who are 16 may be allowed if they have the written consent from the state chief minister. Read more