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‘Progress clearly possible when there is political will’

A new report launched by World Policy Analysis Centre released a comparative data on nearly all countries in the world, revealing how millions of children around the globe face conditions that limit their opportunities to thrive and reach their full potential.
The “Changing Children’s Chances” report released on February 12 provides analysis of the laws and public policies of 191 countries, covering the areas of poverty, discrimination, education, health, child labor, child marriage and parental care.
The report highlights how marked strides have been made in areas central to children’s healthy development by governments in 48 sub-Saharan Africa countries, but also that there is substantial room for policy advances to transform the lives of children.
This new research aims to focus attention on ensuring that existing policies governing child welfare are fully implemented and new measures are introduced which will enable children’s full and healthy development.
“Governments in both developed and developing countries are not taking widely agreed-upon steps in critical areas known to make a difference to children’s opportunities,” Jody Heymann, co-author of the study stated.
The report also reveals that progress in improving children’s chances does not necessarily depend on the scale of resources available to governments. Some low and middle-income countries have made impressive advances for children.
Kenya was recognized to have made education compulsory for 12 years, longer than all other countries in the area, including those with a higher GDP, and it has a higher minimum age for fulltime work than its neighbours.
The report also lists suggestions to address these issues, including making education, especially secondary education free, protecting children and youth from working long hours, which interfere with success at school, establishing a minimum age for marriage, which is equal for both sexes and is high enough to enable children and youth to complete secondary education and increasing educational attainment requirements for teachers, accompanied by improved salaries and training to ensure that enough qualified teachers are available.
It further recommends ensuring minimum wages are high enough to lift families out of poverty without reliance on child labour to supplement family income as well as ensuring workplace policies are in place so as to enable working parents to care for their children; countries that have not yet done so should guarantee paid maternity, paternity, and parental leave, as well as leave to care for children’s health needs.
“This new report shows progress is clearly possible when there is political will. But as a region we need to see comprehensive action if we are to guarantee all children a childhood where they can go to school, a childhood free of marriages that require them to parent before they have grown up themselves, getting the education they need to find work, and not face discrimination based on their gender or ethnicity that closes off far too many options,” said Catherine Mbengue, a representative from the African Child Policy Forum.
The World Policy Analysis Centre is the largest data centre examining social and economic policy globally, covering hundreds of aspects of policy and national outcomes in 193 countries.