November 20 has been marked by the United Nations as Universal Children’s Day to promote awareness and well being of children worldwide. Historically, on this day in 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was signed and the Convention of the Rights of the Child was also signed on this day in 1989.
A young population is an advantage for any country in that it can predict the development and progress of a nation.
There are three aspects of children that must be fully recognized on this day; children’s rights, their empowerment and their health and well being.
Children’s rights and their empowerment are imperative in the developed and the developing world. Since the incident that took place on October 9, 2012 when Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year old Pakistani activist was shot with her two other school mates by Taliban, the lack of emphasis on the rights of children has become more palpable. It has therefore become more important for Pakistan to build awareness of the children of the nation and set measures that will enhance their rights, including their right to education. However, with 20 million children out of school in Pakistan, there is major concern for this vulnerable chunk of the population which constitutes Pakistan’s future. Dan Rohrmann, the UNICEF Representative in Pakistan, summed this up by stating, “Empowering young women, especially the most marginalized and disadvantaged contributes to achieving child rights,” and maintained that “It is a powerful resource for development as investing in children is an investment in the future of Pakistan, an investment that forever will change the lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.” In terms of protecting the health and well being of children across the globe, its inclusion in six out of eight global agendas signed in 2000 to form the Millennium Development Goals were centered on children’s health. According to Save the Children, in Pakistan, out of a population of nearly two million, child deaths occur in 87 out of every thousand children, infant deaths occur in 61 out of every thousand and thirty one percent of children remain underweight – these figures speak for themselves.
Given the demographic dividend of Pakistan’s growing population, the youth are a major composition of the economy’s driving force. Youth empowerment would require at least 50-60 million new jobs. However, given the current progress of Pakistan in the MDG context, this could be a lost opportunity.
Mariam Malik (Blog moderator)
Senior Research and Communications Associate