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Empowering Children and their Families to End Poverty

Tomorrow 17th October marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In a world characterized by an unprecedented level of economic development, technological means and financial resources, that millions of persons are living in extreme poverty is a moral outrage. Poverty is not solely an economic issue, but rather a multidimensional phenomenon that encompasses a lack of both income and the basic capabilities to live in dignity.

Persons living in poverty experience many interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that prevent them from realizing their rights and perpetuate their poverty, including:

  • Dangerous work conditions
  • Unsafe housing
  • Lack of nutritious food
  • Unequal access to justice
  • Lack of political power
  • Limited access to health care

This year’s theme is “Acting together to empower children, their families and communities to end poverty”

We need to recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Poverty hurts children’s development and, in turn, leads to lower income and health in adulthood. When child poverty is recognized as a denial of children’s human rights then people in positions of responsibility and power are legally bound to promote, protect and fulfill children’s rights. Above all, it is imperative to recognize and address the specific discriminations experienced by the girl child.

There is a wealth of evidence on the negative effects of child poverty on children’s immediate experience as well as their future prospects. This is what might work to reduce poverty.

  1. Increase household income – Low educational attainment is the key way in which poverty in childhood affects outcomes for adults. Evidence shows that increasing household income increases children’s educational attainment.
  2. Support parental relationships – There are clear links between poverty and the type of household in which a child grows up, which are partly but not solely linked to income. Various types of action to support family relationships are proven to help to reduce poverty, and include facilitating fathers’ involvement in with their child and access to relationship counselling for low income couples.
  3. Develop early childhood education – High quality early years education can help to overcome some of the disadvantages faced by children from poor families, with the amount of money allocated by the government to ECD Centres making a difference to outcomes.
  4. Better primary school and secondary school education – High-quality teaching has been shown to be the most important school-level factor affecting attainment and is particularly significant for children from low income backgrounds. For these pupils, having a good teacher compared to a bad teacher leads to an additional year’s progress. The evidence on how best to improve teaching quality suggests that funding affects pupil outcomes, while school structures do not have an impact. Other important factors affecting pupil destinations include good quality careers advice, acquisition of social and emotional skills, and active monitoring of student performance.
  5. Leadership and commitment – Last but not least there needs to be strong political leadership and commitment, not just in government but across the whole public and private sectors. All these bodies need to listen – really listen – to the views of people experiencing poverty.