700 million children robbed of their childhood

Thursday 1 June 2017

Kathmandu, Nepal: One quarter of the world's children are being denied a childhood, a new report from Save the Children has revealed. The report includes a global index ranking which shows places where childhood is most and least threatened.  

Launched to coincide with International Children's Day, the Stolen Childhoods reporthas found that at least 700 million children have had their childhoods brought to an early end.

The reasons vary from extreme violence and conflict, often driving families from their homes; early marriage and pregnancy; child labor, poor health and not being able to go to school. The global number of children involved in the workforce has declined by one third since 2000, but an estimated 168 million children are still trapped in child labor, compelled to work to support themselves and their families. 

In the case of Nepal, poverty and traditional practices are among the main reasons preventing children from experiencing their full childhood.

Save the Children’s Stolen Childhoods report ranks Nepal 135th, just ahead of Pakistan (142) and Afghanistan (152) but behind India (116) and Bhutan (93). Norway and Slovenia topped the index, followed by Finland, with Niger ranking last. 

“It is unacceptable that children are having children as a result of early marriage because it’s a practice society accepts in this country. Children cannot be forced to lose their childhood anywhere in Nepal in the name of traditional practices,” said Delailah Borja, Country Director of Save the Children in Nepal. In reference to the report, Borja also said that every parent should put the interest of their children first to ensure no child is forced to lose out on their childhood, with equal accountability resting on the state.

For many Nepali children, childhood ends too soon. The reasons include poor health, child marriage, child labour and exclusion from education. 

Thirty seven percent of children aged 5-17 in Nepal are engaged in child labor (some 3.2 million children), according to the report. The highest rates of child labor are found among the poorest Nepali children, where nearly 9 out of 10 children involved in child labor work under hazardous conditions*.

Child marriage is another factor that ends childhood. Nepal has the third highest rate of child marriage in Asia. 37 percent of girls in Nepal marry before age 18, and 10 percent are married by age 15, despite the fact that the minimum age of marriage under Nepali law is 20 years. Child marriage also affects boys, but to a much lesser degree than girls. Eleven percent of boys are married by the age of 18 in Nepal which is one of the highest rates in the world. 

The report also found that: 

  • Every day, more than 16,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, mostly from preventable or treatable causes 
  • About one quarter of all children under five (156 million) have their physical growth and mental development stunted as a result of malnutrition
  • One in six school-aged children worldwide is currently out of school
  • Conflict has forced nearly one child in 80 from their homes
  • 168 million children in the world are involved in child labour -- 85 million in hazardous work -- which is more than all the children living in Europe (138 million)
  • One girl under 15 is married every seven seconds 
  • Every two seconds, a girl gives birth
  • Every day, more than 200 boys and girls around the world are murdered

Click here to read the full report. 

 * Central Bureau of Statistics, 2015. Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014, Final Report. Kathmandu, Nepal: Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF Nepal