Every child deserves to grow up in a safe community with healthy meals, the chance to go to school, and the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
Meet Majerah from Afghanistan. Majerah is now 17 years old. As a 14-year-old, she was forced to marry a man ten years older than her. Though she was top of her class in the 8th grade and worked diligently toward her goal of becoming a doctor, she had to drop out of school and move in with her husband’s family. She now stays home and does the housework for her in-laws. Majerah’s childhood and potential were shattered.
One of the world’s largest nonprofit organizations, Save the Children, recently released a new report called Stolen Childhoods. The report tells us that childhood is disrupted and robbed from at least 700 million children worldwide – that’s twice the entire American population.
The report highlights several ‘childhood enders,’ including:
- Death from preventable causes. Globally, around 6 million children die before their 5th birthday, mostly from causes we know how to prevent.
- 156 million children under age 5 have stunted growth due to malnutrition.
- Teen pregnancy. Every two seconds, a girl gives birth before her body is ready to do so.
- Worldwide, violence and conflict has caused nearly 28 million children to be displaced from their homes and communities.
One major thread throughout the Stolen Childhoods report is that all of these issues are connected. A young girl forced into marriage, like Majerah, is more likely to drop out of school with dreams unfulfilled, get pregnant as a teenager, and give birth to a child who is malnourished and remains in poverty. A child forced to flee their home because of conflict will not have a formal education and will have a harder time getting nutritious meals and access to health care for diseases like malaria.
Another key theme of the report is that inequality is responsible for many of these stolen childhoods. These causes that rob children of their health and happiness affect some kids more than others – based factors like where they live, their gender, and their ethnicity.
Every child deserves to grow up in a safe community with healthy meals, the chance to go to school, and the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we must commit to making sure all children are able to enjoy their childhoods.