What’s Next? ChildFund and the Post-2015 World
By Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Staff Writer
Joseph, age 5, Kenya
Milestones inspire looking both back and forward. In ChildFund’s 75th anniversary year, we have been doing exactly that … looking at who we’ve been, who we are, what we do now and going forward.
It’s an interesting time for us to be on the cusp of something as momentous as our next 75 years, especially as the international development community is actively considering its next steps. In 2000, governments and the United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, global priorities for reducing poverty worldwide by 2015. That date is almost here, and the air is full of questions: What should the world’s next targets be? (There are many, many recommendations.) Were the MDGs successful? (Some, yes. Some, less so.) Where does ChildFund fit in?
As a child-focused development organization, ChildFund considers the position of children first. That is the thread that anchors us to our beginnings, when we signed up our first sponsors to support orphans in war-torn China. Personnel and approaches have changed, the geography of our service has shifted, and our funding has diversified well beyond sponsorship, but the core of our mission — the best interests of children — remains steadfast.
So, earlier this year, ChildFund joined its sister organizations in the ChildFund Alliance to call for a particular, child-focused target to be prioritized among the world’s post-2015 goals that will replace the MDGs, a priority that addresses a piece that was missing from the original MDGs: child protection.
The message of the ChildFund Alliance’s Free From Violence and Exploitation campaign, which centered around a petition to demonstrate widespread support around child protection, was simple: Violence against and exploitation of children negate developmental progress, often even before it begins, and perpetuate the generational cycle of poverty. And it must stop.
We do not yet know what the final post-2015 agenda will be. But we do know that no matter what it includes, ChildFund will continue to strengthen child protection everywhere we work — and to raise worldwide awareness of the need.
As the global economy becomes more connected than ever before, ChildFund is concentrating on preparing children to participate.
Meanwhile, ChildFund will also continue its holistic service to children. Because the worldwide goals for fighting poverty are intended to shape the world that children will inherit, it only makes sense to work toward conditions that make it possible for children to grow into people ready to take on that world. For that to happen, they need to have a childhood in which their gifts are nurtured and respected, they have nutrition and health care, they are able to contribute in their communities and they are safe. They require all of these things not only because of what they have to offer the future world, but also because they have so much to give right now.
Sarah Bouchie, vice president for program development, notes that as the post-2015 agenda moves forward, “the stickier issues of poverty are coming to the forefront.” To help children prepare for these, ChildFund works to ensure they have what she calls assets, power and resilience.
“Examples of assets include skills for youth, access to clean water and high-quality schools,” she says. “Power means helping parents become equipped to make better choices for their youngest, or it could mean programs that stop violence or support justice for children being exploited. Efforts that promote resilience include disaster risk reduction initiatives, psychosocial support programs and caring adults in schools, clinics and communities.”
As the global economy becomes more connected than ever before, Bouchie adds, ChildFund is concentrating on preparing children to participate: “Early childhood development programs, school readiness, safe schools, leadership opportunities, workforce readiness, stopping violence and exploitation — all of that prepares the next generation,” she says.
From what we can see, children of this next generation relish the opportunities ChildFund supports.
“I like to learn, to study mathematics, multiplication, division,” says 12-year-old Mynor, in Guatemala. “To paint dragons, to paint houses.”
Anastasia, 16, lives on an Indonesian island that is prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and more, and has dived into ChildFund’s disaster risk reduction programs for youth. “I know what to do in emergency situations and can spread that knowledge to people around me,” she says.
In Kenya, 5-year-old Joseph educates us on the proper way to wash our hands, with a gap-toothed smile.
Perhaps, 75 years from now, the grandchildren of these three will come together in some global forum to examine the phenomenon of poverty, which will feel to them like a distant memory.
How might we get from here to there?
When asked what he sees for ChildFund’s future, Jumbe Sebunya, ChildFund’s regional director for West Africa, envisions “local networks in the driver’s seat,” he says, with ChildFund’s support being “demand driven.” He also sees ChildFund working more closely with other child-focused organizations worldwide to promote global support for children’s rights and children’s voices.
Paul Bode, regional director for the Americas, also sees increasing collaboration in our future, but with a twist: He imagines the office of president, in the U.S. or any country, held by a formerly sponsored child. How might such a leader lead differently? “With openness to other views,” says Bode. “Open to other cultures, open to collaboration, to working together, to resolving the issues of the world in a collaborative way.”
For now, we aim for that day with hard work fueled by our supporters, who care so much about children.