November 20 is Universal Children’s Day, an annual reaffirmation of the world’s commitment to protecting the human rights of children everywhere. Of particularly urgent concern, rights organisations say, are the millions of children suffering the effects of poverty, war, discrimination and exploitation.

Oak Foundation’s focus on the 27th annual observance of this special day is on ending child sexual abuse and exploitation, especially for children on the move and living outside of family care. Often displaced by poverty, war or political oppression, children travelling or living alone are more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation.

With global displacement at record high numbers, Oak Foundation is working closely with partners to protect children’s rights within countries and across border. Terre des Hommes Netherlands works with a network of organisations to reduce the abuse of children in northern Ethiopia, where there are high numbers of children on the move. The Swiss National Youth Council continues its project "Speak out" for unaccompanied migrant children seeking asylum and for children without documents. Médecins sans Frontières and Save the Children each received grants to help relieve the suffering of women and children in camps and temporary settlements in countries bordering with Syria.

Children living in poverty are too often pushed into domestic work to survive, exposing them to high levels of physical and sexual abuse. Children who run away from domestic abuse situations often end up on the streets, where they can be coerced into sex work. Oak partners are finding ways to disrupt this chain of events.

With an estimated eight million children living in child care institutions, Oak is also dedicated to keeping families together and phasing out private and state-run orphanages. Oak partners in Eastern Europe are working with at risk families to prevent separation, while at the same time promoting family-based alternatives for children in need of care.

Universal Children’s Day commemorates the Nov 20, 1989 signing of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, a major milestone in the effort to achieve a world fit for children. According to UNICEF, the treaty has inspired changes in laws to better protect children. It has also altered the way international organisations see their work for children and supported an agenda to better protect children in situations of armed conflict.


© Rachel McKee/Oak Foundation