CHILD SOLDIERS SWAP GUNS FOR SCHOOL BOOKS
[Reuters, June 17, 2007]
More than 200 child soldiers swapped guns for schoolbooks in Central African Republic today after being released by rebels.
The Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) had used the children in a low-intensity war against President Francois Bozize's forces, backed by French troops, in the remote northeast until they signed a peace deal in April. The movement's founder, General Damane Zakaria, handed over the underage fighters -- some in military fatigues, others in civilian clothes -- at a ceremony following a deal with the Government and the UN.
“We are no longer going to use weapons, we are going to use pens to return to school,” said Mahamoud Ataib, 16, designated by the children as their spokesman. Officials from UN children's agency UNICEF handed out schoolbooks and pens at the ceremony in Gordil, a former rebel stronghold almost 700km from the capital Bangui, sandwiched between two huge wetland reserves. The landlocked country, languishing near the bottom of just about every development ranking, has suffered decades of instability and military coups, exacerbated recently by the spill-over of conflicts from neighbouring Sudan and Chad.
Central African Republic did not sign the Paris Principles in February which call upon states to demobilise child soldiers. But the handover was part of a May agreement between Zakaria, the Central African Republic's government and UNICEF to return the underage fighters to their families. Relief workers say violence by rebels, government troops and bandits has driven 300,000 civilians from their homes in the north, creating a “forgotten” humanitarian crisis.
A quarter of the country's four million population have suffered the effects of civil war or spillover from conflicts in Sudan's Darfur region and Chad, according to UNICEF.
The former French colony hosts 10,000 refugees fleeing a rebellion in eastern Chad and the crisis in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed in four years of fighting. The UN suspended humanitarian operations in the northwest on Tuesday after a French aid worker was gunned down in her car during a trip to assess sanitary conditions.
PERSONAL COMMITMENT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
[Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) April, 2007]
Not even a year has elapsed since Vincent Mai made his commitment to Ubuntu Education Fund at the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, and it is making a resounding difference in the lives of the orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) of Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
The numbers are remarkable and telling: Ubuntu has reached 111 OVC and families and created five nodes of care support schools since last September. But the impact of Mai’s commitment is most evident in the fact that now thanks to the assistance of Ubuntu, 17 year-old Ntombizethu Ngceza — who goes by the name of Zethu (see picture)-- is making her own commitment.
Zethu is an orphan—she lost both parents to HIV/AIDS. Since her parent’s death, Zethu has become mother and father, raising her two siblings. With the help provided by Ubuntu Education Fund, Zethu’s life has been turned around. Thanks to the support provided to her, Zethu was inspired to join the ranks of some of the most powerful and influential people in the world by making a CGI commitment.
Zethu's commitment is: to spread the spirit of Ubuntu to orphaned girls who are younger than me by creating a support group of ten girls to discuss the issues that they are facing and to help them cope, and then meeting with one of Ubuntu's counselors after each support group meeting.
Zethu’s commitment shows the true potential of CGI to catalyze a chain of commitments to better our world. What will your commitment be? Visit CGI’s personal commitments site to make your own commitment.
MAKE A PERSONAL COMMITMENT
EUROPEAN UNION TARGETS CHILD LABOR IN TURKEY
[March 28, 2007]
Tiny hands are very important for shoe production, textiles, auto repair, agriculture and many other industries. This is because those tiny hands can easily polish and apply adhesive to places that big hands can’t reach.
Those tiny hands do not want big pay as they are mostly the hands of children whose parents are unemployed. This is actually the condition of children in Turkey.
Looking at the present scenario, European Union has launched a project to target child labor in Turkey. The 5.3-million-euro project aims to give working children, mostly from very poor families, the chance of a better life, sending many of them to school.
A twelve-year-old Suna Kacar said,
“My mother wanted me to work and I didn’t go to school in the past. I now see how good it is to go to school so I can have a profession when I grow up. I would like to become a nurse.”
Similarly, a 15-year-old boy, Gani Gormez stated,
“I had been sent to work in the streets to earn pocket money and buy what the family needed. I understood when I started going to school how bad child labor is.”
While Turkey’s economy has rebounded from a steep financial crisis in 2001 when many people lost their jobs, a quarter of all Turks live below the poverty line.
Grim figures show:
1. Almost, a quarter of Turkey’s 74 million, population, is made up of children aged six to 17 years.
2. One in 10 are seasonal agricultural workers or work in small companies or on the street.
3. 24 percent of Turkey’s children between the ages of 10 and 14 are working.
Ali Haydar Oner, governor of Cankiri province claimed that the children are working in the streets in order to support their family income. It is a kind of unfair burden, which they cannot carry. He stressed that it is not a good sign for their future. Poverty too is fueling the menace of child labor in the region hence, EU has planned to give more than 200 million euros to Turkey for human resource development projects such as creating new jobs and education improvement within three years.
The project aims at providing children the basic education and food stuff. Also it would monitor the efficacy of it by checking whether the children are regularly going to the school or retreating to work again.
The project also targets the parents of children who work. They learn to read and write and are encouraged to do vocational courses so that they can start to earn enough money to save their children from having to work.
Read full story HERE
GOVT OF ERITREA OUTLAWS FEMALE CIRCUMCISION
[April 5, 2007]
The government of Eritrea has abolished the arcane custom of female circumcision, describing it as threatening the lives of women. "Female circumcision is a procedure that seriously endangers the health of women, causes them considerable pain and suffering besides threatening their lives," the government proclamation said.
Anyone who requests, incites, promotes or witnesses female circumcision is subject to a fine and imprisonment, Eritrea's Information Ministry said. The ban was imposed on March 31.
With age-old cultural roots, female circumcision, or genital mutilation as it is known, is practised today in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt and other parts of the Arab world such as Yemen and Oman. The mutilation usually involves removal of the clitoris. Those who practice it believe it tames a girl's sexual desires, maintains her honor and increases her marriageability. It is practiced by both Muslims and Christians. The U.N. estimates up to 130 million women worldwide have undergone circumcision.
Knives, razors or even sharp stones are usually used, according to the U.N. The tools often are not sterilized, and often, many girls are circumcised at the same ceremony, leading to infection. It is unknown how many girls have died from the procedure, either during the cutting or from infections, or years later in childbirth.
Female circumcision is illegal in more than a dozen African countries, although laws are rarely enforced.
CHILD TRAFFICKING AN INCREASING PROBLEM IN CHINA
[Associated Press, April 4, 2007]
Rural Chinese children increasingly risk being sold or forced to become beggars, petty thieves or sex workers as their farmer parents flock to cities looking for work, an international rights group said. China has a thriving black market in girls and women who are sold as brides, as well as babies who are abducted or bought from poor families for sale to childless couples or those who have one child and want more.
The government says that it has cracked down harshly on such cases, and that the trend is decreasing.
[Photo: Police officers hold two week old babies, while investigating two suspected baby traffickers, at right, in a police station in Zhuzhou in central China's Hunan province. The two women, a mother and daughter-in-law, were caught on a train to Hebei, and admitted buying the babies for a total of 7800 Yuan (US$1,006.) from a woman in Haikou, on southern Hainan Island. The two had arranged to sell the babies for 10,000 yuan (US$1,290) to an infertile couple in Hebei province, but were caught by railway police on their journey to Hebei. Rural Chinese children increasingly risk being sold or forced to become beggars, petty thieves or sex workers as their farmer parents flock to cities looking for work.]
But Kate Wedgwood, Save the Children's country director for China and North Korea, said there are no reliable figures for the number of children being trafficked and the continued mass migration from farms to cities is sure to make the problem worse. "We already know the risks (of child trafficking) are exacerbated by migration, so I think the likelihood is that it will increase," she said.
In recent years, an estimated 150 million to 200 million people have moved from the countryside to urban areas where their labor in factories and on construction sites has fueled China's breakneck economic growth. Several hundred million more are expected to leave China's vast rural hinterland over the next 15 to 20 years.
Poor rural children from ethnic communities are the most at risk because they have limited command of Mandarin Chinese and often don't know their rights, Wedgwood said. Disabled kids and children of parents with HIV/AIDS also face increased risk of being trafficked and are sometimes forced into panhandling.
Wedgwood estimated that there are tens of thousands of boys from far western China's Xinjiang region who have been bought or kidnapped by gangs who force them into pick-pocketing and other non violent crime in China's eastern cities.
“Ethnic minority girls from Yunnan province and the Guangxi region in the south are at risk of being forced into the sex trade within China and also in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia,” she said.
Children left behind in villages are vulnerable because they are often looked after by grandparents -- who often need care themselves -- or by institutions that lose track of the children. However, those who migrate with their parents are also in danger because they are thrust into unfamiliar surroundings with limited social services, and their parents are often busy working.
Wedgwood wants China to redefine child trafficking to include victims up to 18 years of age and children who are forced into work to pay off family debts. China currently defines victims of child trafficking as kids up to 14 years old who are sold or kidnapped.
Read full article: HERE
13-YEAR-OLD THAI SEX SLAVE WINS COMPENSATION UNDER AUSTRALIAN TRAFFICKING LAW
[Reuters, May 30, 2007]
Former Thai sex slave Jetsadophorn Chaladone is learning to dream again, although slowly and with the pain of her past still close behind. Jetsadophorn, or "Ning," this week became the first person in Australia to win compensation as a victim of sex trafficking, with a tribunal awarding her an undisclosed payment. Ning landed in Australia as a 13-year-old with her father's blessing in 1995, expecting to work as a nanny. Instead she was put to work in a Sydney brothel and told she would have to have sex with more than 650 men to pay off a $35,000 debt.
After 10 days in the brothel, a routine raid by immigration officials led to her freedom, but Ning had already been forced to have sex with around 100 men with the threat of a beating held over her head.
Now 25, a mother and living with her husband back in Thailand rather than the country she once thought promised a better life, Ning said the landmark ruling under new Australian sex slavery laws was helping turn her life around. "It's not really healing the wound in my heart, but it will help my life get better," she told Australian radio through an interpreter after the compensation award. "Most of the money will go for the education of my son and myself, and part will be for the renovation of my house, and to set up a business, and to buy a car."
Australia introduced laws against sex trafficking and slavery in 1999, although authorities say the country's problem is relatively small in world terms, with less than 100 women trafficked to the country each year. Since the laws were introduced only two successful prosecutions have been lodged, and the owners of the Sydney brothel in which Ning was found were never investigated.
An Australian Institute of Criminology report says unlike Ning, most women trafficked to Australia know they are to work in prostitution, but are unaware of conditions such as confiscation of passports and restricted freedom.
The Government in 2003 signed anti-trafficking agreements with Cambodia, Burma, Laos, and Thailand to improve international cooperation and police investigations of trafficking syndicates.
The Victims Compensation Tribunal in New South Wales state said Ning, who now lives in northeastern Thailand, suffered a "moderate to severe depressive disorder" after the horror of her time in Sydney. Ning featured in a film about sex trafficking and is now co-operating on a film to educate other Thai women so they do not repeat her mistakes. "I believe it will help protect other women from trafficking. They are going to know what working overseas would mean," she said.
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