Although India has a large number of laws to protect and promote the rights of children, children’s concerns are viewed primarily as a welfare issue, rather an issue of rights. While all children need protection; because of their social, economic, or even geographical location, some children are more vulnerable than others and need special attention. Millions of children have no access to education, work long hours under hazardous conditions, are forced to serve as soldiers in armed conflict, or languish in institutions or detention centres where they endure inhumane conditions and assaults on their dignity. Young and immature, they are often easily exploited. In many cases, they are abused by the very individuals responsible for their care.
This brings to light the importance of definition and promotion of children’s rights. Children’s rights are the human rights of children with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors, including their right to association with both parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for food, universal state-paid education, healthcare and criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child, equal protection of the child’s civil rights, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of the child’s race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, colour, ethnicity, or other characteristics.
Interpretations of children’s rights range from allowing children the capacity for autonomous action to the enforcement of children being physically, mentally and emotionally free from abuse, though what constitutes “abuse” is a matter of debate. Other definitions include the rights to care and nurturing.
According to international law, a child means every human being below the age of 18 years. This is a universally accepted definition of a child and comes from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), an international legal instrument accepted and ratified by most countries.
About the Organisation – Save the Children
Many organisations across the globe are working in the area of protection of child rights. This story will highlight the excellent work being done by Save the Children in this context. Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children. It was founded in 1919 by Eglantyne Jebb. Her ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Child’ was adopted by the League of Nations in 1924 and inspired the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation. Their mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives. Recognised for their commitment to accountability, innovation and collaboration, their work takes them into the heart of communities, where they help children and families help themselves. They work with other organisations, governments, non-profits and a variety of local partners while maintaining their own independence without political agenda or religious orientation.
When disaster strikes around the world, Save the Children comes forward there to save lives with food, medical care and education and remains to help communities rebuild through long-term recovery programmes.
Each and every staff member and volunteer of Save the Children shares the values that, either individually or through teamwork, they drive through breakthroughs for children. Their core values can be listed below as follows:
• Accountability: They take personal responsibility for using the resources efficiently, achieving measurable results and being accountable to supporters, partners, and most of all, children.
• Ambition: They demand the best of themselves and their colleagues, set high goals and firmly commit to improving the quality of everything they do for children.
• Collaboration: They respect and value each other, thrive on their diversity and work with partners to leverage their global strength in making a difference for children.
• Creativity: They are open to new ideas, embrace change and take disciplined risks to develop sustainable solutions for and with children.
• Integrity: They aspire to live to the highest standards of personal honesty and behaviour; they never compromise their reputation and always act in the best interests of children.
More than 75 years of experience working hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder with families and communities at home and abroad has taught them that poverty need not be a life sentence. By working directly in communities, Save the Children’s approach to relief, recovery and ongoing development has nurtured the seeds of hope for millions of children and their families. Their areas of work can broadly be listed as follows:
• Child Protection: For more than a decade, Save the Children has been protecting children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence in all regions of the world. Their programmes focus on the most vulnerable children while aiming for the safety and well-being of all children.
• Education and Child Development: Education is vital to lasting positive change in children’s lives. Yet for millions of children and youth in developing countries, education is beyond grasp. Save the Children reaches the world’s most marginalised children – those who urgently need education to survive and thrive in more than 30 countries around the world.
• Health and Nutrition: Save the Children works to ensure that children, their mothers and other caregivers have access to and use key health and nutrition services, as well as adopt healthy behaviours in both development and emergency situations. They use evidence-based interventions to address the major causes of illness, death and malnutrition, and continue to develop innovative strategies to deliver these services most effectively to as many people as possible, especially in resource-poor and emergency situations.
• HIV/AIDS: Save the Children is responding to the global HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, Asia, Eurasia and the Caribbean by partnering with communities to mobilise the resources necessary to tackle HIV/AIDS as well as supporting children and families in need. These partnerships focus on two primary goals: raising awareness about ways to prevent new infection and adopt healthy practices and providing care and support for children and families affected by the pandemic.
• Livelihoods: Children are more likely to be safe, educated and healthy when families have secure livelihoods. Save the Children works with vulnerable families in 27 countries to help ensure that they can afford to pay for basic needs and services for their children and provide access to sufficient, nutritious food all year round. They also offer assistance when shocks, such as rising food prices or natural or man-made disasters, threaten to devastate families.
• U.S. Programmes: Nearly one in every five children in the US lives in a poor family, according to the most recent figures from the federal government. Save the Children works in impoverished rural communities across the nation, in some places where conditions resemble parts of the developing world. They provide early childhood development, literacy, physical activity, and nutrition programming as well as emergency relief.
Save the Children India
As mentioned above, Save the Children is an international organisation working for children’s rights in 120 countries. In India, they are working across 12 states to ensure that every child has a happy and healthy childhood.
Save the Children has been associated with India since pre-independence days. India’s first involvement with Save the Children was as a donor. In the first five years of existence of Save the Children (since 1919), donations from India were huge. These donations came partly from the British resident population and partly from the Indian population for providing relief during emergencies like the famine in Russia in 1922. This association has grown strong with each passing year. Important milestones occurred in each decade, some of which can be mentioned below:
• In 1971, during the India-Pakistan war, aid was given by Save the Children to refugees from Bangladesh. Expatriate and locally recruited medical teams were sent and supplementary feeding was organised for 2000 children per day. Sponsorship of Indian children became an important feature in the 1970s and the number of children sponsored increased with passing years.
• In October 1975, following a review of the work done by Save the Children in India, a New Delhi office was opened to coordinate existing programmes and investigate new areas of existence in collaboration with Indian child welfare organisations.
• In 1983, Save the Children was involved in 20 projects in India and this increased to 40 projects in 1984.
• Throughout the 1990s, Save the Children in India worked towards strengthening the ability of the most vulnerable children to meet their needs. Their programmatic interventions included improving health and education services, training village health workers, support for training institutions and schools, mobile crèches for migrant urban workers, night schools for rural working children, research and advocacy for urban children, child rights promotion, promoting children’s participation, emergency relief and individual child support.
• When Tsunami struck India in 2004, Save the Children’s response to the disaster was the largest in its 90 years history.
• In 2008, Save the Children India started its operations as Bal Raksha Bharat, an independent entity and on 1st April 2008, Save the Children India became an independent member of the International Save the Children Alliance, responsible for all fundraising and programmatic interventions in India.
India Strategy 2012-2016
Save the Children India strategy was developed in 2008 with the support of Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Then, four clear thematic areas of intervention (Child Protection, Health & Nutrition, Education and Humanitarian Response & DRR) were defined and the rapid growth of the programmes meant that the strategy should be re-visited. Thus, for the 2012-2016 strategy, the four themes have been retained by applying the filters of Theory and Change.
The themes of Save the Children India can be listed below as:
India has the largest number of child labourers in the world. Save the Children India works to expose and prevent exploitative child labour practices. They also have child labour prevention programmes in areas like West Bengal and Bihar where child trafficking is rampant.
The Child Protection Programme is a core sector of the work at Save the Children India. They utilise a child rights programming framework and keep in mind the cross-cutting themes of child participation, non-discrimination and best interests of children. The child protection work focuses on three key “evidence” groups:
• Children affected by disasters/emergencies and conflict, including Disaster Risk Reduction
• Exploitation & child trafficking
• Children in the worst forms of labour and children with inadequate parental care including alternatives to institutional care.
Health & Nutrition
Nearly 1.73 million children die in India every year due to lack of treatment. Save the Children India works with communities and the government health systems to improve child and maternal healthcare.
India is the largest contributor to the annual global tally of deaths of children under five years old – nearly 2 million. Save the Children is working to help India reach Millennium Development Goal 4 on reducing child mortality by 2/3rd by 2015.
7.1 million children in India do not go to school. Save the Children India works to ensure that all children join school. This helps them stay out of child labour as well as in building a promising future for themselves.
Save the Children’s work is underpinned by a commitment to making children’s rights a reality that was first set out by the organisation’s founder over 75 years ago. Education is not only a right in itself, but an “enabling right” – a critical instrument for bringing about “social, economic and political inclusion and a durable integration of people, particularly those ‘excluded’ from the mainstream of any society”
To address this challenge, Save the children has adopted the strategy of facilitating the creation of ‘Inclusive Learner Friendly Environments’ targeted at 3-18 years within diverse educational settings to meet the challenge of addressing diverse and heterogeneous needs of children.
Humanitarian Response and Disaster Risk Reduction
Children are the worst affected victims of natural disasters. Save the Children India works to ensure their right to survival and development after an emergency by providing immediate support. It is committed to reducing children’s vulnerability to emergencies, ensuring their right to survival and development after an emergency and providing the support they and their families need to quickly recover and re-establish their lives, dignity and livelihoods. The Every One campaign, launched in October 2009, reaffirms the central importance of emergency response in our fight to reduce child mortality.
The above mentioned four themes are supported by Policy and Advocacy. The policy and advocacy strategies at Save the Children are meticulously planned and they strike multiple targets when the timing is right and change for children is most likely. Their advocacy is based on the programmatic evidence which has been developed while working with children and their families across India. With the evidence from the field, they lobby government, pro-active MPs, ministers, journalists, business people, academics and individuals from all walks of life so that policies, programmes, behaviour and institutions are child centric and support the sustainable changes needed to improve the lives of children.
Given below is a diagrammatic representation of Save the Children’s ‘Theory of Change':
Corporate Social Responsibility
Save the Children has a strong understanding and experience of working closely with businesses to facilitate long term change in the lives of the most marginalised children.
Currently, a wide range of corporates and organisations are supporting Save the Children under their CSR policy.
Some of the CSR projects can be listed below:
• AVIVA Street to School Programme & Great Wall of Education: Aviva Life Insurance supports the Street to School programme to mainstream out of school street children into school and also supports our Mobile Learning Centres in Delhi and West Bengal. Aviva also launched a book donation drive across Delhi and NCR region, in 2010. In 2011, the book wall expanded its footprint to three more cities, and managed to collect around 9,50,000 books to help thousands of underprivileged children, supported by Save the Children.
• MOTHERCARE Born to Care Campaign: Mothercare Group has formed a three year partnership with Save the Children with a promise to donate 1.75 Million GB Pounds to Save the Children, through a co-branded fundraising campaign named “Born to Care”. This is in support of Save the Children’s work to save newborn lives. Mothercare has been hosting various awareness workshops and charity events to extend support to our cause.
• P&G Shiksha: P&G is supporting Save the Children to empower marginalised girls through quality education, in 12 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) residential schools of Rajasthan and Jharkhand. With this project, the target children include 900 girls attending KGBVs, 600 out-of-school children, 150 teachers, 300 schools management committee members and 30,000 community people.
Thus, it is visible that Save the Children has done and continues to do commendable work related to children’s rights. Various corporates have been associated with Save the Children in its initiatives and are doing their bit as part of their CSR.
CSR VISION hopes that more companies will take lead from this story and come forward to support Save the Children as a part of their CSR.