A Rights Based Approach to Child Poverty

What is poverty?

According to UNICEF most of the people living in poverty are children and child poverty is growing.

Poverty affects most aspects of children’s lives. It can be prevented with adequate investment by governments, civil society and families on children's rights.


Human rights standards

Freedom from poverty is not explicitly recognised as a human right in any international human rights treaty. However, the right to an adequate standard of living (which includes housing and food), to health, education and freedom from discrimination are core principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. By taking these human rights principles as a framework for action, rights-based approaches tackle the underlying determinants of poverty.

Human rights advocates have long observed the close link between discrimination and poverty. Published data suggests that more than two thirds of extremely poor people in low income countries and lower-middle income countries live in households where the head of household is from an ethnic minority group. It also tells us that more than three quarters of extremely poor people live in rural areas. Further, more than 80 percent of people with disabilities live in developing countries, illustrating both the confluence of poverty and disability and the importance of proactively addressing the needs of people with disabilities in development strategies.


What can be done?

A rights based approach to poverty looks at the issue as more than the absence of money and possessions. Child poverty is a consequence of the denial of rights such as the right to play, non discrimination, participation, health and health services and education. Any action to end child poverty should go hand in hand with an action to realise children's rights.

Traditional measures to fight poverty focus on the economic status of households, neglecting inequalities within households. Furthermore, while many organisations work on poverty, projects are not always based on rights as the armour for campaigning for change. Not focusing on rights and giving means for people to enforce them often leads to people being dependent on aid.

Furthermore, children's views are rarely taken into account when government and other institutions develop economic policies. This is a reflection of indirect discrimination against children and the assumption that adults know what is best for children. The impact of this lack of consideration for children is discriminatory in that a disproportionate number of children are affected by poverty compared to the rest of the population.

Rights-based approaches focus on how individuals experience poverty, detecting inequalities by disaggregating data by sex, age, ethnicity, geographic region and economic status.


Example: Parents ship in to give their children an education in Kenya

In Kibera, a slum in Nairobi - Kenya, often described as Africa’s biggest slum, Ms Achieng started her own school in 2008 to compensate for the lack of public schools in Kibera.

Other mothers helped her rent an empty church hall and hire teachers. She was soon inundated with children. Asking parents to pay 7,500 shillings ($87) in annual fees enabled her to move to a bigger hall. Two years later she had saved enough money to erect half a dozen primitive classrooms: cement holds in place sturdy sheets of corrugated iron known as mabati. Yellow paint gives them an uncomplicated cheerfulness.

When lessons begin at eight, she inspects a well-thumbed ledger that records who has paid school fees. “We don’t expel kids who cannot afford class,” she insists. “They may be asked to rear chickens in the schoolyard and sell the eggs”. Read the full article.