Girls in India during a hygiene training as part of the Great WASH Yatra. Himanshu Khagta, WASH United, 2012

A couple of years ago, a friend following me on Twitter said he found my feed really depressing. “Doesn’t anything good ever happen for children?” he asked.  

Spreading doom and gloom sometimes seems an occupational hazard of human rights work. But I’ve taken my friend’s words to heart and now, as we approach the end of the year, here are 10 good news stories for kids:

  1. A number of armed forces and armed groups released child soldiers from their ranks in 2018, including more than 900 in South Sudan, 833 in Nigeria, and 75 in Myanmar.
  2. Twenty-one US states now ban sentences of life without parole for crimes committed by children, up from only five in 2012.
  3. The number of children detained in adult prisons in the US has dropped by more than 80 percent in the past 20 years.
  4. The number of children and adolescents who are out of school has dropped by 110 million since 2000.
  5. In 1979, only one country prohibited all corporal punishment of children: Sweden. Today, 54 do.
  6. AIDS-related deaths are expected to decline by 57 percent among children under 14 by 2030.
  7. Child marriage is on the decline. In the past decade, rates have dropped by 15 percent globally, and by one-third in South Asia.
  8. Rates of female genital mutilation have also fallen dramatically among girls in Africa since 1990. A 2018 fatwa in Somaliland forbids the practice.
  9. Eleven countries endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration in 2018, bringing to 82 the number of countries that have pledged to protect students, teachers, and schools during war. The UN reports that military use of schools has dropped by one-third since 2014.
  10. Since 2000, the number of children in child labor globally fell by 94 million, a drop of more than one-third.

To be sure, millions of children continue to experience exploitation and abuse on a daily basis. But these successes show progress is possible. As we celebrate them, let’s also renew our commitment to advance the rights of children in 2019.