On the anniversary of Girl Summit 2014, leaders must prevent backward steps in Bangladesh.
Today is the first anniversary of the Girl Summit, which is being marked by an event at Canada House, hosted by DFID and Plan International.
One year ago at the Summit, along with an impassioned speech from DFID’s Justine Greening, David Cameron and Bangladesh Prime minister Sheikh Hasina pledged to end child marriage under the age of 15 in Bangladesh by 2021, and end all child marriage under 18 by 2041. It was an ambitious statement, as currently Bangladesh has the world’s highest rate of child marriage.
However when Sheikh Hasina returned, her government drafted a new law proposing to lower the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 16. Girls may need parental permission to marry at 16 but as most marriages in Bangladesh are arranged by parents, this makes little difference. This backward step conflicts not only with Bangladesh's commitments at the Girl Summit, but also with international law.
Heather Barr from Human Rights Watch describes how ““The Bangladesh government’s inaction on child marriage is causing devastating harm to one of the country’s greatest assets – its young women. The government—and its donors—should do more to keep girls in school, assist girls at risk of child marriage, fight sexual harassment, and provide access to reproductive health information and contraceptive supplies. Most importantly, the government should enforce its own law against child marriage.”
Children on the Edge supports Learning Centres for Working Children in Bangladesh, which not only provide an education which would otherwise be impossible, but works with the local community and parents to reduce the rate of child marriage.
You can support this project by donating, and if you want to make a difference in the political scene, giving a voice to these girls, we’d suggest the following:
Already staff at the refugee schools we support in Lebanon are trying to cope with teaching in a small tent with basic resources, ensuring classes can learn in their own language in an unfamiliar country and helping children to deal with the trauma of what they have been through before their arrival.
More recently they have also had to contend with a increased influx of new children as more and more refugees pour into Lebanon. They are also seeing pressure on children to work because of the poverty in which families find themselves, and the vulnerability of families in the camps to the self made ‘landlords’. These emerging problems are creating very real obstacles to learning, yet staff are meeting the challenges head on, with skill, creativity and tenacity.
To cater for increased numbers a third school was opened in May for an additional 120 students, and staff are expecting another 30 in the next few months. The school itself was brilliantly designed by a German architect who volunteered his time, making a more spacious area than that of the other schools, and laying it out in a way that enables the children to have some outside space to play and run around in during breaks. The second tent school space has also been adapted by the renting of a nearby tent to use as an extension.
Naturally, those children arriving are behind in their work, so a dedicated ‘catch up’ process is being developed for new arrivals. Staff assess the students beforehand to ensure this focus will not slow down the progress of the rest of the class or leave the new pupils discouraged or frustrated. The have created a ‘prep class’ for new students before actual classes start, to work to integrate them into their learning as seamlessly as possible. Eight new refugee teachers have been trained in the last six months, making a total of 16 teachers.
As we enter summer season the challenges of harsh winter conditions are abating, but different difficulties are coming to the surface. One teacher describes how at this time “students are not showing up to school because it is potato harvest season and they need to help their families make money, or they may, all of a sudden, completely quit school because their parents have found a job for them and they don’t want to argue about not taking it”. Often the “Shaweesh” (land owner) will take children off for a few days of work on his fields as part of the payment of their family’s rent, resulting in them missing days of school. In the camp where the first school is built, the landowner was even threatening to fire parents who sent their children to school.
In response, when the third school was built, staff from the project met with all three landowners in the surrounding camps and negotiated with them to sign contracts agreeing not to take the children out of school for work. Project worker Nadine Morcos said “The Shaweeshes pride themselves in being benefactors and having good connections with NGO’s, so they were happy to comply with these conditions, and did as much as they could to help us start up the school. It was good to see their involvement and support in making the school a reality”. In the area where the landowner was issuing threats, a vote was taken in the community and the school was moved to a better environment, so parents would not be afraid to send their children to class.
In the last six months refugee teachers were taken on a day trip to the sea at Sidon. This was a trip of a lifetime for many of them as the majority had never seen the sea before. Last week the students from the first and second schools went on an end-of-year field trip to a public piece of land with lots of free space to run around, and a freshwater spring to swim in. The children absolutely loved splashing around in the water all day and playing games together.
The need in the refugee community here continues to grow, and if we can secure funding then the aim is to create a fourth school in October. The UN describes how a funding crisis is compounding the problems of both refugees and humanitarian agencies. We really appreciate any help you can give with your own donations, or by sharing news about the project to those who may be interested in supporting it.
More than four million Syrians have now fled war and persecution and become refugees in neighbouring countries, making the Syrian conflict the worst crisis for almost a quarter of a century.
These latest figures were released from The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) a few days ago, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees stating “This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation. It is a population that deserves the support of the world but is instead living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into abject poverty.”
The biggest increase has been in Turkey but in Lebanon an additional 40,000 have crossed the border from Syria in six months, making the total 1,172,753 registered refugees. The number of unregistered refugees is thought to be much higher. As the influx of displaced Syrians in Lebanon grows, the refugee schools we support are working hard to accommodate the growing needs.
To cater for increased numbers a third school was opened in May for an additional 120 students, and staff are expecting another 30 in the next few months, taking the amount of children we are supporting up to 300.
The school itself was brilliantly designed by a German architect who volunteered his time, making a more spacious area than that of the other schools, and laying it out in a way that enables the children to have some outside space to play and run around in during breaks. The second tent school space has also been adapted by the renting of a nearby tent to use as an extension.
The need in the refugee community here continues to grow, and if we can secure funding then the aim is to create a fourth school as soon as the funds come in. The UN describes how a funding crisis is compounding the problems of both refugees and humanitarian agencies.
We appeal for any help you can give with your own donations, by finding out about the work we support here and through sharing news about the project to those who may be interested in supporting it.
Photo courtesy of UNHCR / I. Prickett
Shifting ground - A snapshot of life on the edge for Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Lebanon’s ‘Back to School’ initiative for refugees - can the children we work with be integrated?
European Refugee Crisis - Our response
Tackling emerging challenges to schooling in Lebanese refugee camps
Another fantastic time was had by all last week at our third play scheme, held at the Child Friendly Space we run in Jinja, Uganda.
This year’s team consisted of volunteers from our wonderful corporate partners The Body Shop At Home™ and Montezuma’s Chocolates and we were really pleased to have Sheena Campbell from Observer Series along to write about the project for their readers.
The week built on the progress of previous years by continuing to enhance the daily curriculum learning with a boost of creativity. Each morning volunteers would shadow the teaching staff in their lessons and the afternoons were a mixture of crafts and games that took the morning’s learning to another level through play.
What really emerged at this year’s scheme was the extent to which community are really owning the Centre for themselves and how this is impacting not just the children who attend but the wider community.
Ben Wilkes described how “Each afternoon I’d look around and the place was full of children, it was buzzing with all different ages in different uniforms, some because they’d graduated from our Centre into mainstream school, and some being welcomed in from other schools in the area. It really is a place run by the local people for their own community and the atmosphere was just one of exuberant fun”.
Clarita who volunteered from The Body Shop At Home said “To be selected by Children on the Edge to represent The Body Shop and my region is most definitely my number one treasured experience in the whole of my 11 years with The Body Shop At Home™ and I'm so grateful to all. The atmosphere in the Playscheme was how it should be, a happy safe environment and at times it was crazy but we all loved the buzz it created. The staff were amazing, they too learned new ideas to continue with moving forward.”
Volunteers were also able to see the transformation of Soweto on a wider scale. Since we started providing micro loans last year, small businesses have started springing up throughout the area, one of which is a women’s pottery co-operative. This was started by four women, who prepared clay from the riverbed, getting a local potter to make it into pots, and then selling them.
This group has now grown to 30 women who are all earning a wage from their work. During the week, our team were able to present the group with two of their own potters wheels, so they can shape their own pots, and cut out this cost of production. The money was raised by Chichester Observer readers, and The Body Shop At Home™ Consultants, so it was great to have Sheena and Clarita present the wheels on behalf of these generous donors. They also funded the hiring of a bouncy castle complete with slide, and a collection of T-shirts for the Community Child Protection Committee in the new areas we have started working in.
We’re really grateful to all our volunteers, and the companies who sent them. Also thanks to Sheena and the Observer readers and of course the incredible staff at ADSN for a fantastic week for the children.
Find out more about the project
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Throughout the year our lovely Ambassadors are busy planning a range of interesting events to raise money for Children on the Edge. Last month their fundraising took the form of a cricket match at Westbourne House.
Euan, our Children on the Edge Ambassador, provided us with the inside scoop from the day and told us all about what everyone got up to:
“On the 21st May the annual match between Westbourne House took place on a beautiful, sunny evening. The battle commenced under the wonderful and impartial eyes of the Headmaster of Westbourne House and the ex Headmaster of Dorset House.
The standard of cricket never quite lived up to the quality of banter and camaraderie of the individuals at this encounter. An unexpurgated version of this brief report is available for additional COTE contribution!"
We would like to say a special thank you to Anna, Charlotte, Alex, Simon and Johnny for all their hard work organising and hosting the match. Also not forgetting Euan who regularly helps with Ambassadors events and keeps all the guests updated about our international projects.
We are always so impressed by the dedication our Ambassador’s put into their fundraising and their innovative ways to support us. The cricket match was a great event combining an evening of friendly sport with raising awareness about our vital work. All together the match raised the incredible amount of £1500! A huge thank you to everyone who attended and donated.
If you have any fundraising ideas we would love to hear from you, please do get in touch!
Just simply saying ‘Chichester Half Marathon’ recalls the success of the revived 2012 event which has had such great appeal for so many people in the area over the last few years. The 'Chi Half' is a challenging and beautiful ‘multi-terrain’ half marathon which one runner has described as “an iconic South Coast race, a must for any serious runner”.
The 2015 event, which takes place on Sunday 11th October, was launched nearly three months ago and the organisers have been overwhelmed with the response to date. Last year the event hosted nearly 1,000 runners but this year the organisers have been able to increase the entry limit to 1500 runners on account of their experience from previous years and also some minor tweaks in the course cutting out some of the pinch points. At the end of June nearly 500 runners have already entered with more entries at this stage are coming in thick and fast.
The event is organised by the Chichester based charity, Children on the Edge, in conjunction with Chichester District Council. Ben Wilkes, Head of Children on the Edge in the UK says “The Chichester Half has been going from strength to strength each year since we revived it in 2012. We’re really excited for this year, some new competitions and prizes, lots of local business support and a real buzz in the community about race day. Not only this, but the money raised makes a huge difference to the vulnerable children we work with. Everyone can get involved, whether it’s running, volunteering or cheering on from the streets, so please do join us on the big day”.
Councillor Eileen Lintill, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Wellbeing and Community Services at Chichester District Council, says “The Chichester Half Marathon is a real community event and we are very pleased to be working in partnership with the wonderful charity, Children on the Edge. Runners will enjoy the scenic route, and for those that would love to tackle the challenge, but have never done anything like this before, organisers can provide support and training to help people achieve their goals. I hope as many people as possible from across the district will give it a go”
All about the event
The 2015 event will be another fantastic opportunity for runners not only to take part in what is becoming a very popular race but also one that takes in the major City Centre sights and landmarks as well as spectacular rural scenery. The terrain is a good mixture of road, paths, cycle tracks and cross country.
The race will start at 9.a.m. on October 11th. It is based at Chichester College, where a Race Village will be set up and will take in the City Centre as well as the surrounding Lavant and Goodwood countryside. It starts in Westgate and travels easterly along West and East Street to Eastgate Square, where it follows the City walls round towards Priory Park, before the runners make their way across Oaklands Park, towards the Rugby Club and then out through Summersdale and Fordwater into East Lavant Village. Stunning downland scenery provides the backdrop for the runners to tackle Chalkpit Lane before climbing up to the Trundle from Five ways where runners have stunning views of the Solent. The next 2 miles is a steady downhill descent into West Dean from where it picks up the Lavant Valley, returning to Chichester along the Centurion way, finishing in the rear College car park - a distance of just over 13 miles.
The event is suitable for people of all abilities (over the age of 17) from the beginner to the more experienced runner, and this year we hope even more people will take up the challenge. A full training programme is given on the web site but you are advised to start training now. If you want to get involved, but don’t feel able to take part, we are also looking for volunteers. Their role is vital in making the event happen.”
The organisers are indeed most fortunate that the notable local sponsors of the first multi-terrain event - Montezuma’s and Store Property are again the main sponsors of the event. Both these organisations have directors who are keen athletes.
The Evans Weir Works Trophy
The works trophy proved very popular when it was introduced for the first time in 2014 and again will be promoted in 2015. It will be sponsored by Evans Weir, a Chichester firm of Accountants, who will also be providing a VIP tent and photo opportunities for the teams. It is expected that the team from Wiggle Cycles, winners in 2014, will be back to defend the Evans Weir Trophy but early indications are that many more businesses are considering entering this year’s event.
Any organisation or business can enter as many people as they wish to compete for the Evans Weir Trophy. It is the first three finishers on race day who will make up the scoring team. Each workplace registering five or more runners is eligible to receive a complimentary training workshop from the organisers and any business signing up more than 10 runners will have the 10th place free. Once the Works Trophy team members are registered all the team manager needs to do is e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the team name and a list of competitors who have entered. Helen Pattinson (Co-Founder of Montezumas, one of our main sponsors) said of the Works Trophy - “There’s nothing like the prospect of your work colleagues watching you run a race to motivate you to get out training. We have ten people in the business who are a lot fitter than they were!”
King and Queen of the Hill
New for 2015 is a King and Queen of the Hill competition which is being sponsored by the local sports running shop, i-run. Runners, male and female will compete with each other to see who is the quickest climber of the Trundle between two points – Seven Ways Car Park and the end of the flint track at the point where the course starts to go round the summit. Chip Timing mats will be placed at the beginning and end of the Hill Section which will be marked with beach flags and bunting. To be eligible runners must enter the half marathon, start the race in Westgate, complete the Hill climb section and also be a recorded as a finisher in the Chichester College car park.
Krowmark Club Trophy
Another innovation for 2015 is the Krowmark Trophy named after the local firm sponsoring the award. There will be a cup and a cash prize for the fastest club in the race. The winners will comprise a mixed team, decided by adding together the times of the 1st 3 men finishers and 1st 3 women finishers of each club. This award is in addition to the usual prizes given to the winning men’s and women’s teams.
Heading the individual entries is likely to be last year’s winner James Baker of the local Chichester club and on his day is rarely beaten in the area. With this increased interest in the ‘Chi half’ it is expected that James will challenge his course record 1.12.24 and the women’s course record of 1.30.44 held by Kari Mack of Tone Zone Runners could also be at risk.
James will be joined by at least 300 other club runners including a good representation from Chichester Runners and Tone Zone Runners. The race is not only for club runners and indeed three quarters of the entrants, to date, are unattached with an equal balance of male and female entrants. As a guide to performance all competitors last year were back within about two and a half hours of the start. The entry list also has five representatives of our sponsors.
In view of the overwhelming support for the event, prospective runners are advised to get their entries in early to ensure a place. On the grounds of health and safety and in fairness to runners who do enter on time the organisers regret that the race limit cannot be exceeded. You can sign up at www.chichesterhalfmarathon.co.uk . Training advice and guidance on preparation for the event is also available on the half marathon web site as is further information at www.chichester.gov.uk. Coverage prior to the event and the race itself will be contained in future editions of the Chichester Observer.
1st July 2015.