‘Do not allow child marriage in special cases’ - Civil society rally in Bangladesh to prevent backwards steps.
Despite signs of progress, UNICEF states in its latest report that Bangladesh continues to have one of the highest child marriage rates worldwide and the highest rate of marriage involving girls under 15. 52% of girls are married by their 18th birthday, and 18% by the age of 15.
Children on the Edge work with our local partners MUKTI in Cox’s Bazar, who over the past five years have intervened in about 20 child marriage cases in the communities where they work. In almost all these instances, through regular parents meetings and community engagement, we have been able to support the prevention of child marriages.
Bimal from MUKTI describes how “It is difficult to stop these cases from coming up as their cause is often rooted in deep-seated poverty, rather than a lack of education. Until the issues of poverty are addressed, child marriage will continue to be a threat for this generation.”
With poverty as a driver, it is a continuing challenge to encourage normative change where age of marriage is concerned. Reshmi is 14 years old and lives in Kutubdiapara slum. She says "I was behind in school but my relatives said it was not important, my neighbours said that it won’t help me to marry. One day, my mother told me I don’t need to go to school because I am now older. I got very upset and stopped regularly attending school, but a few days later I was surprised when she asked me if I wanted to read more.
It turned out she had already arranged my marriage, but that week had gone to a parents meeting with the MUKTI school. They had told her about child marriage and the risks it has for my body and my children. My mother changed her mind, she said “I cannot destroy my daughter’s life. There are so many families who don’t think like me, but I don’t care”. Now I am going to school again and not afraid of being married without my knowledge”.
In this climate it is an uphill struggle to bring such change, and the work of our partners could be further jeopardised by a potential backward step from the Bangladeshi Parliament. In the coming weeks, Parliament will be considering their Child Marriage Restraint Act 2016 which includes a special provision allowing marriage, with parental consent and judicial consent, for girls under 18 in ‘special cases’ or for ‘the greater good of the adolescent’.
The provision does not define a minimum age of marriage, what these special cases are or what the ‘greater good’ is, leaving these areas open to interpretation and abuse. Children on the Edge are part of the Girls Not Brides Network who argue that ‘…if the provision is included in the final act it would mark a step backwards for a country which has made significant strides towards ending child marriage over recent years’.
Children on the Edge stand with the civil society organisations in Bangladesh as they rally today at the Central Shahid Minar, to protest against the inclusion of this special provision. It is expected that a large number of development workers, social activists, doctors, lawyers, cultural activists, teachers, youth, girls and parents will take part in the rally.
Rachel Bentley, International Director at Children on the Edge says “Our partners work hand in hand with government organisations to address child marriage through their schools. They need the support of a firm legislative framework, prohibiting exceptions in order to continue protecting young women and girls in their communities”.
Find out more about the Child Marriage Restraint Act
Read about our work in Bangladesh and consider a donation.
Winter in Syria can be bitter, with extended periods of snow and temperatures below zero. Many displaced families, and those in villages affected by conflict are living without enough clothing, fuel or food to survive.
The partners we work with in Lebanon are currently making trips across the Syrian border east of Damascus to provide food and fuel to 160 families enduring freezing conditions. They have found that there is much more need than they can currently meet and they would like to do more.
Nuna Matar who leads the project describes how ”Each person, each family is a living tragedy. Many have lost wives, husbands and children to torture, rape, and death”. The team here have identified a large number of unaccompanied street children who they would like to provide support for if they can secure funding in the coming weeks.
Nuna goes on to say “We are seeing first hand the tragedy in the Damascus area where a main spring in the wadi Barada area that supplies water to the capital city was targeted by rebels and was damaged, leaving 4 million people in Damascus without water. On top of that Damascus is accusing rebels of polluting water supplies with diesel and water authority has cut supplies to Syrian capital”.
Recently a small group of friends who support Children on the Edge clubbed together to support a family by donating enough money to pay for fuel and heating for a Syrian family for a month. They said “It’s just a simple way that we felt we could make a difference, without going through a lot of bureaucracy. We know our support is going direct to families that need it, through a small local organisation that is responding directly and quickly to the current need.
It costs just £40 to provide a family with enough food to survive and fuel to keep warm for a month. If you feel you, or a group you are part of, would like to make a donation of this amount to help a Syrian family through the winter, then please make a one - off, or regular donation.
On Friday 3rd February and Saturday 4th February we will be away at The Body Shop at Home conference, raising more than £10,000 for Children on the Edge, by selling raffle tickets and goody bags.
We’re looking for two more willing volunteers to join our team to help us over the weekend. Can you help? Or do you know someone who can?
You'd be joining Ben and Eloise, plus others from our head office for a fun-packed couple of days on the team trip to Telford, in the Midlands. On Friday 3rd February we leave Chichester around 9am and travel to Telford to set up our stand at the conference centre. Saturday will be a busy day, and volunteers will help us to sell raffle tickets run our stall selling goody bags to The Body Shop’s consultants.
We'll show you everything you need to know; you just need to have lots of enthusiasm and a friendly attitude!
It's a great event, with a brilliant buzz as we get to meet more than 1,000 Body Shop consultants who love Children on the Edge.
Your help will ensure we maximise this incredible opportunity to raise as much money as we can. With enough help, the weekend should raise more than £10 000, which is enough to cover the costs running our Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD) in Loco, Uganda for a whole year.
What you need to know
If you are interested, or would like to find out more, please call Eloise, our Fundraising Manager on 01243 538530 or email email@example.com.
Children on the Edge supports children to realise their rights, be free to express their views if they would like to, and influence decisions in matters effecting them. It’s a central part of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and not just a theory, but something that enables their active participation.
In Bangladesh where we support Community Schools for Working Children, we have established child councils to represent the voices of their friends and contribute to decisions about the running of the schools. They have not only been growing in confidence and self expression, but they are actively involved in making their environment creative and colourful and ensuring that play is a central part of the life of the schools.
To do this they have organised a regular ‘Play-day’. Each Thursday the child council members divide into different groups and arrange various creative activities, fun and games. As well as this, they spend time making their environment clean and beautiful, both at home and at school. This involves cleaning, gardening and making decorations for classrooms.
One representative from a child council said “Most of the time we are busy helping our parents with our domestic and outside work, after study we have very limited scope to play. We feel bored. Thursday brings different feelings for us”. Another said “I become independent on this day. I mix with all teachers and my friends freely. I can take something to play as my choice. I get more joy on this day.”
The teachers also see the benefit of having play as a priority in the week. Asma says “Playing day is a big gathering for us all together. Students are chirping, playing and dancing. We just love it. Having this day means that children gets refreshment, become self-motivated to attend school regularly and study too. It also benefits their friendships and the sports competitions boost their confidence in doing their best”.
The day not only improves wellbeing, relationships, confidence and motivation, but it has an impact in the wider community. Nazia is 10 years old and lives in Kutubdiapara slum. She has a brother and three sisters. Her father is a mechanic and her mother sometimes makes pickle to sell at the market.
Nazia says “I recently made a vegetable garden at home with my mother. I have planted radish, brinjal, vegetable leaf and tomato. Every week this brings money to support my family. I have been encouraged in how to do this from my school activities. There is a flower and vegetable garden which I have created there with my friends. This made me realise I can do it in my home and I share it with my mother.
My mother said because I am younger I am lots of hard work, but she was happy to see my interest in the garden and helped me to make it. Now I have a nice vegetable garden and my mother is saying all the time; “Education is a big thing!”. I am very happy. I have done something for my family”.
Cleaning at home and at school has changed the mindset of the children and also made a difference in the areas where they live. Talking to one group of parents (Imam, Habibullah, Senuara, Rina and Parvin) who live in Amtolirchara area, they described how the children have changed the area:
“In our community there is a Mukti school and our children study there. Every two months we attend a parent’s meeting where we learn many things to do with looking after children and hygiene. We try to maintain it, but most of the community people are using an open toilet. It is polluting to the environment and our lives. Our children do a day where they play but also learn about having a clean environment. Sometimes they say to us how in their learning books there is a good latrine and ask why are we are not making one? Our children feel uncomfortable using the open one. We were unaware about this before, so now many of us in our community are using the sanitised latrine. Our children and the school have changed many of our views.”
Mamun Rashid who oversees the child councils says “We asked the child councils to tell us what was in their minds and what they wanted to do. They said they wanted to live clean and try and make their environment nice, they were motivated to do all of this themselves. They have become courageous”.
The Community schools currently provide education for 900 working children, enabling them to learn, rest and play with their friends for a few hours each day.
You can find out more by going to our project page and support this work by making a donation, signing up as a regular donor or taking on a challenge!
Last December, the Lebanese military entered one of the refugee camps where we were supporting work with Syrian refugee children. They ordered an evacuation, giving camp dwellers a week to take down their tents and leave. They did this in many camps along the sightline of the Lebanese Syrian border-point because of a potential terrorist presence. This meant there was no alternative camp for refugees to move to in the area, so we supported our partners to find new land and build their own camp for refugees.
During this eviction period, as families were trying to come up with plans for where to move, our local partners took all the children that were being evicted on a field trip. They thought it would do them good to be distracted, especially as they sensed many of them were feeling anxious about the military returning. When the military showed up the first time they intentionally intimidated the Syrians: they came in their full attire, brought their tanks and weapons, and threatened to run over the tents with their tanks if the Syrians weren’t gone in a week.
Our partners gathered the children and took them to land owned by a local convent, which has some beautiful grounds. Here they could run around, wade in the lake, and enjoy the fall leaves and vineyards. The trip was incredibly successful and the children were talking about it for weeks after, showing their parents photos, with their minds distracted from their current situation.
They also used the trip to start conversations about how, together, they could shape their future home so that it has some of the beautiful elements of the gardens they visited. It was a great opportunity to talk to them about the power they have to care for their environment, cultivate it, and enjoy it. They also to discussed how their choices make a difference, how even small, simple things can have big impact. This could be avoiding littering, or starting a small garden next to their tents.
When the new camp began to be built, teachers and students were encouraged to be a part of the moving process: brainstorming ideas and dreams for the future plot of land, involving the adults and older children in the building. One teacher described how “I really like that we teach the children to make conclusions instead of pointing everything out to them.” The conclusions the children reached about the new camp, was that they would love some gardens, they wanted a clean, safe area and most of all, a playground!
A year later and all this is a reality. The new camp is the only settlement in the area with tents spaced strategically to allow access for services. Other camps tend to end up as a maze like sprawl of tents , there is electricity for light and safety and all the residents are part of a cooperative where they influence the running of the day to day life.
Nuna Matar, who heads up the work in the camp says of the new playground “The children are using it to the full! For the children, having their own space where adults have no business being in has proven to be very beneficial”. Alongside the provision of education in the camp, creating a child friendly environment with colour and play as a central part of life is crucial for children who have experienced trauma to gain a sense of security and normalcy.
You can support this work over Christmas by giving to our Season of Hope Appeal or perhaps in the new year take on a fundraising challenge!
As a new wave of violence against the Rohingya emerges, our work with refugees is more crucial than ever.
For over 5 years now Children on the Edge have been working with Rohingya refugee children in the makeshift camps of Bangladesh. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in Rakhine State, Burma (Myanmar) who are widely considered the most persecuted group in the world.
Since their government passed the 1982 Citizenship Act, the Rohingya people have been denied access to citizenship and subjected to grave human rights abuses at the hands of the authorities and local population in Burma.
To escape this treatment, they make perilous journeys at sea or flee across the borders, often to countries that are already impoverished and over populated. Bangladesh is now hosting around 400,000 Rohingya people and despite the recent surge of violence in Burma, are currently turning them away.
In the last month there has been an additional surge of violence against the Rohingya in Burma, and a UN official has stated that the agenda fuelling it is ethnic cleansing. Some 30,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in the last month and an analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch has shown that hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed. Claims of gang rape, torture and murder are adding to the crimes against humanity endured by this people group.
Conditions for those that have made it across the border are poor and children have no opportunity for education. Official refugee camps are at capacity, overspilling into illegal makeshift camps. Movement is restricted and refugees have no permission to work outside the camps. They are often subject to attacks and persecution from locals who resent the refugee community.
Children on the Edge work in the largest makeshift refugee camp in Bangladesh providing low profile primary education for Rohingya children in the camp. We operate 45 classrooms within the camp, enabling 2,700 children to gain a full primary education. All children follow a government recognised curriculum and take exams, ensuring that their education is officially recognised in Bangladesh, despite their migrant status.
Without this provision there is a chance a whole generation of Rohingya will grow up unable to read or write, the latest wave of violence has tripled the amount of refugees coming into the areas we are working and the need is greater than ever. We are actively looking for support and funding for this vital work. Please get in touch if you think you can help with funding, or think about making a donation.
We started out our work in Uganda supporting a pilot Child Protection Team project in Masese II slum (known as Soweto). After 5 years the Masese II Child Protection Team (CPT) has genuinely transformed a community and is still going strong.
These ten volunteers have toppled illegal breweries and created alternative, positive livelihoods to get children to school, they have eradicated the occurrences of child sacrifice, they have instigated community action on sanitation and hygiene to create a clean and cared for area. They have also reduced domestic violence, substance misuse and child abuse.
The team are now independent, with only occasional input and encouragement needed from Children on the Edge staff. Not only this but they are sharing their experiences as we scale up this work into the wider district.
Babra, a social worker at Children on the Edge Africa says “I am proud of the CPT in Masese II, they do all the work with very little resources, they get on all by themselves, they refer cases and do follow ups themselves, they even do their own fundraising. They work so well even though they are not paid because it is from their hearts that they want to change the community. It’s like having a child and seeing them develop. I pray that the new communities will be the same. We can’t go in as Children on the Edge and change the whole community, but we can work with local people to change their own community”.
To help ensure that the new teams do just this, they meet regularly with the original team to learn from their experiences, share stories and develop ideas. Programme Director Edwin says “This helps them understand they are not alone in the fight against child abuse”.
In time, we are planning to scale up this tried and tested model across Uganda to help vulnerable communities create protective environments for their children. The team has been greatly effective in eradicating cases of child sacrifice, but sadly success in one community usually means the perpetrators move on to other vulnerable areas to prey on their children.
Identifying areas that are particularly vulnerable to child sacrifice, the team have written up the CPT model to enable new communities to benefit from 5 years of learning when forming their own CPTs.
Alongside the scaling up of the CPT model at grassroots level, there is need for effective national legislation where perpetrators are brought to justice. The two approaches work hand in hand. Children on the Edge are currently working with the Ugandan Children’s Rights NGO Network (UCRNN) to support the passing of a specific Bill addressing child sacrifice and current gaps in legislation.
With a change in the law and the corresponding scaling up of child protection at community level. It is hoped that this practice will be tackled head on and communities will be resourced to create safer environments for their children.
Help us expand our work in Uganda with a donation
Put the kettle on and read the full story of our Child Protection Team model
Sell our Season of Hope Christmas paper, or give to our Season of Hope appeal - all proceeds go to our work.
The 29th November is #GivingTuesday - the day to do good stuff for charity, straight after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Last year, this global campaign raised £6,000 a minute for UK charities and broke the world record for most amount of money donated online in 24 hours!
This Christmas, and on #GivingTuesday, Children on the Edge need your support for our Season of Hope appeal. Can you make donation and spread the word to help us bring hope to forgotten children this Christmas?
A Season of Hope
The traditional Christmas story is all about hope. Most of us will have seen the nativity or been in a nativity play as a child. Whether you were an angel with tinsel wrapped round your head, or a shepherd donning a tea towel, the message was the same: a tiny baby is born in a manger against the odds, bringing hope and joy to many people. So, for lots of people, Christmas really is a season of hope.
Children on the Edge exists to bring hope, life, colour and fun to some of the most forgotten children across the world today. This Christmas, and on #GivingTuesday we are inviting you to give hope to these children by supporting our Season of Hope appeal.
How we’re bringing hope to children in Uganda
We’re working across a number of small slum communities in Uganda, to help make them safer places for children. In Loco, a slum community housing some of the poorest families near Jinja, conditions are dire. There is a high level of alcohol abuse, which leaves children vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Theft is rampant and there are frequent instances of domestic violence. The nearby nursery school and primary school are both run down and expensive to attend, stopping the most vulnerable children from enrolling.
But thanks to Children on the Edge, things are changing, for the better. We have established Child Protection Teams in Loco, and three other slum areas in Uganda. These teams are working to empower each community to build a protective environment for their children.
They are building relationships with people in their own communities, identifying problem areas and creating a link between people living in the slums and local authorities and services. All of which is having a hugely positive impact and making Loco a safer place for children. Already each team member is full of stories about how they have used their training to intervene in situations of child neglect, abuse, domestic violence and crime.
In January 2016, when we visited Loco, before the Child Protection Team was set up, the people there said they had no hope. But just a few months later, Chizito, the Chairperson of the new Child Protection Team in Loco said:
"The people see workshops, they see a team that deals with their problems, they see a drop in domestic violence and crime, they see their children on a play scheme and a new Early Childhood Development Centre being built, and it gives them hope. These things have never happened in Loco. Hope is knowing things can change".
Five months on and the centre is built. Not only this, but a class of children from the most vulnerable households in Loco are well into their first term and making incredible progress.
On this years’ #GivingTuesday, we want to take the time to thank all of our supporters who donate to Children on the Edge throughout the year, whether that’s their money, time or ideas. As a small charity, we rely on the support of people like you, who help us continue our work to help some of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Our chums over at Montezuma’s chocolates have just completed an amazing charity fundraising month, raising a whopping £2,137.98 for Children on the Edge.
Throughout October, staff at ‘Chocolate HQ’, as well as in their 6 stores completed a number of different fundraising challenges and activities.
In stores, over the course of a week, customers paid £1 to take part in challenges including: ‘Guess how many buttons in a jar’; ‘Design a chocolate bar’ plus quizzes and other chocolate themed games – all raising £686.29!
At ‘Chocolate HQ’ - the aptly named Montezuma’s Head Office - staff took part in a new challenge every week throughout October, including an ‘Auction of Promises’, where staff offered their skills to other colleagues, for a price. What a great idea! Someone offered their gift wrapping prowess – agreeing to wrap 10 Christmas presents for a colleague. Another agreed to bake a cake, clean a car, do someone’s ironing, along with an offering of a tarot card reading and hair braiding lesson!
Other activities including a chocolate themed staff sports day or ‘Chocolate Olympics’. Teams competed against each other in a (chocolate) egg and spoon race; throwing a bag of buttons as far as they can; a relay race with a chocolate bar as the baton; a ‘balance a chocolate bar on your head’ race and finally a ‘which team can scoff a packet of chocolate buttons the quickest’. For four-year-old Alex who joined in, this was his favourite event!
Don’t worry, staff have also been shedding those chocolate calories on a static bike in the office, The team at Chocolate HQ managed to cycle an impressive 862 miles over the course of the October. Which, according to Google Maps, is the distance between John O’Groats to Lands End, if you take the A9. Well done team! Even better is that, according to the staff, they even did this without much help from their cycling-mad bosses – Helen and Simon!
The total raised throughout the month by staff was £379.70, adding to the £686.29 raised by Montezuma’s stores, plus a generous matched donation by the owners of Montezuma’s themselves took the total to £2,137.98!
This will go such a long way to help fund our work to support some of the worlds most vulnerable children - thank you Montezuma's!
The main element of the work we support in Uganda is through the establishment and development of Child Protection Teams (CPT). These groups of 10 trained volunteers from five different slum communities surrounding Jinja, work to mobilise local people to care for their children more effectively and receive support and advice on parenting, health, nutrition and preventing abuse.
One of the functions of the teams is to connect the community with the services that can help them. Having a strong connection with the police and training from them about the law gives weight to the advice and guidance provided by team members.
Babra from Children on the Edge Africa explains “We had a case of a man who beat his wife every day, the children would be hurt too. Two of our team members visited him, he was very hostile. After having some discussion with him he changed. We were not going to arrest or quarrel or make orders, but talk in peace until he understood why we were there. We then told him the laws. He didn’t know it was crime. We told him he would be arrested and he stopped.”
The teams work closely with police officers and local government to make sure issues are addressed and cases handled quickly and fairly.
Salaad from Loco CPT says “If people had problems they used to go to the local councillor and nothing would happen, or he might try and bribe them. Now they come to us, we speak on their behalf and their issues are dealt with straight away. Any violation of children’s rights and they know they can get action to challenge it”.
This diplomacy and advocacy works both ways. Teams advocate on behalf of the communities they work with, not only with regard to individual cases, but to build trust and understanding between local people and authorities.
Babra describes how perspectives have changed; “The police in Masese II used to be dismissive if people reported cases. They didn’t feel it was their concern, they just thought they were a bunch of drunks and not worth the trouble. Now they take the community seriously”.
The police have tried to engage Loco community many times before with no success. This is mainly due to the fact that people have been disillusioned through their experience of bribery, corruption and a perception that the police are against them.
The CPT set up a meeting with the community and the police and, because they are well trusted, many people from the local area came along. Seven police officers were there and the questions went on until after dark. There were so many questions that they set up a second gathering, attended by over 130 people.
They discussed how bribery is not allowed, and should be reported. They were encouraged not to run away from a police patrol and reassured they are there to keep safety and order, not to beat people. It was made clear that any officer who does this should be reported and action will be taken.
Through their ongoing and visible partnership with the police, as well as the facilitation of these meetings, the Loco CPT are building more effective services and a renewed trust between the community and the police. This is all contributing to the development of a safer environment for local children.
Read about the work we do in Uganda building a protective environment for children.
Could you help contribute to this work by selling our ‘Season of Hope’ wrapping paper?
Want to take on a challenge to support these children? Find out more.
For a quick donation simply text EDGE16 and your amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.