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Small Voices, Big Dreams

ChildFund’s Global Survey of Children in Developing Nations Finds Them Hungry to Learn – and Just Plain Hungry

 Small Voices

ChildFund puts the voices of children at the center of its work, because children know their own experience the best. Recently, to learn what are the most important issues to them and their communities, we gathered the voices of children on an unprecedented scale.

Nov. 17 marks the unveiling of Small Voices, Big Dreams, a global survey of more than 3,000 children in some 30 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. The survey is the result of a collaborative effort within the ChildFund Alliance, a network of 12 child development organizations that includes ChildFund International. The release of Small Voices, Big Dreams is timed to honor Universal Children’s Day on Nov. 20, which the U.N. instituted in 1954.

To administer the survey, ChildFund staff sat down with 100 10- to 12-year-olds in each country where we work, asked them six simple questions and transcribed their answers verbatim. The process was deliberately informal and child-friendly. ChildFund then translated the results and turned them over to Ipsos Observer, a global research firm, which tabulated and compiled the results.

The importance of education rang loud and clear throughout the survey results. Asked what they would do if they were president for a day, nearly 60 percent of the participants said they would educate all children, build more schools and improve the quality of schools already in place.

Education arose even in response to the question “What do you fear most?” In Indonesia, one child told us, “My worst fear is that I won’t be able to go and study at school because of lack of money.” Another, in Afghanistan, feared war precisely because it would keep children away from class.

“This emphasis on education among these young children speaks to their wisdom as well as their understanding that learning holds the key to a better future,” says ChildFund International President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard.

Of course, there were many other fears. Fear of animals ranked high, at 30 percent, and snakes especially. One-fifth were scared of HIV/AIDS and other disease. Twenty percent cited war and violence. Also noted were marriage at an early age and starvation.

The survey also sought to quantify what portion of children’s days are given to work and found that more than a quarter spend half of each a day or more on household chores or other work.

Work was the only area in which U.S. children diverged from the rest. In fact, perhaps the most striking thing about the overall results of Small Voices, Big Dreams is how much children living in poverty worldwide have in common.

The survey provides exactly the kind of information ChildFund blends with best practices in the field and with its wisdom gained through 70-plus years’ experience in helping children achieve their potential. These voices show that children know what they need and are fully invested in achieving their dreams. They also affirm ChildFund’s work to support those most salient needs — to increase food security, to promote access to high-quality education, to help communities become environments where children can thrive.

To read more about the survey, click here.