For children in many parts of the world, 2016 could not have been worse. From the siege of Aleppo in Syria to frightening percentages of children at risk in Yemen, events have reminded us over and over again of how we have failed children. Yet amidst all the grim news, 2016 also brought some encouraging progress.
As the year comes to a close, here are just a few of the positive developments for kids:
- Sudan signed an action plan with the United Nations this year to end its use of child soldiers. All seven governments known to recruit children have now pledged to end the practice, and the UN reports that since 2000, more than 115,000 child soldiers have been released.
- This year, Gambia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe each banned child marriage. Just this month, 300 communities across four African countries pledged to abandon child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).
- France, Madagascar, and Eritrea each banned life sentences for child offenders this year, while 17 US states now ban life without parole for child offenders, triple the number just five years ago.
- An estimated 10,000 children in the Central African Republic were able to resume their education after militia forces were ordered to vacate schools. Fifty-six countries have now endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, committing themselves to protecting education from attack and refraining from using schools for military purposes.
- Rwanda has transferred thousands of children from institutions to families as it phases out orphanages; Japan also adopted a new law guaranteeing family-based care for all children.
- Mongolia, Paraguay, and Slovenia this year prohibited all corporal punishment of children, bringing the number of countries with such bans to 51 – more than triple the number 10 years ago.
Are children still subject to terrible violations? Of course. But seeing progress can encourage us to redouble our efforts for children in 2017. Exploitation and abuse are still far too prevalent, but we know that our advocacy can make a difference.