Four in ten adults worldwide claim their childhoods blighted by discrimination – new research from Save the Children

Wednesday 27 April 2016


APRIL 26, 2016 – Almost 40 per cent of adults worldwide were discriminated against as children because of their gender, ethnicity or religion, a disability or simply because of where they live, a new global survey in 18 countries including China on discrimination by Save the Children has revealed.

As a result, almost half (49 per cent) say their access to education was adversely affected, and just over one-third (35 per cent) were unable to access critical health services. 

The newpoll – which involved over 18,000 people worldwide– is the largest of its kind undertaken by the aid organisation, and tracks for the first time in its history the impact that discrimination has on life chances.

Noticeably, China topped among all surveyed countries for reducing discrimination and neglect against children as 74 per cent  Chinese respondents said the situation has been improved.  However, the situation hasn’t been fundamentally changed globally.

In a snapshot of discrimination towards children globally, it found:

·      56 per cent of respondents claimed that, over the last 20 years, discrimination against children had not improved in their country. Thirty-six per cent responded that it had, in fact, worsened;

·      those polled in Africa reported the highest levels of discrimination in their childhood (58 per cent);

·      Nearly half of all people surveyed in Asia (45 per cent) say they faced discrimination when they were children. In China, 44 per cent of respondents also say Yes.

The findings support the organisation’s latest report, which reveals that while progress has been made in reaching the world’s poorest children, those from discriminated groups are consistently overlooked, despite being the most at risk – and the threat to their futures is only getting worse.

“Every last child” reveals that these children are discriminated against or neglected because of geography, their gender or ethnicity, a disability or because they are victims of conflict.

“our experience working in 120 countries worldwide tells us that discrimination is increasingly the largest threat to the poorest children today, It is not an accident that discrimination is preventing some of the most vulnerable children from accessing life-saving services – these children are being systematically left out by design or neglect,” said Patrick Watt, Global Campaign and Advocacy Director of Save the Children International. 

To ensure 15 million children have an equal opportunity to survive and benefit from access to healthcare, education and nutrition regardless of who they are or where they live, Save the Children is launching a new three-year campaign – Every Last Child.

The campaign calls on decision makers at the household, local, national and international levels to ensure barriers that prevent the poorest children from accessing life-saving services are eliminated. 

The organisation also calls on world leaders to commit to three basic guarantees. These include fair financing – so that essential services are financed in a sustainable way and free for everyone to use – equal treatment for all children, and for decision makers to be held accountable.

Thereport reveals that millions of the world’s poorest children are being denied life-saving services because of who they are and where they live.

In India’s Bihar region, where scheduled castes make up 59 per cent of the poor, only six per cent of children are registered at birth, compared to 42 per cent of children in the rest of the country – preventing them from accessing vital services because they lack proof of birth.

While significant progress has been made to narrow the gap between genders, discrimination persists in many regions – and those worst affected are adolescents and the world’s poorest girls.

Gender-based violence and teenage pregnancy not only contribute to higher maternal and infant mortality, they limit a girl’s opportunities to learn. 

In Sierra Leone, which has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world, teenage girls account for 40 per cent of all maternal deaths. Pregnant girls are also not allowed to attend school and take exams.

Child marriage is also more prevalent among the world’s poorest girls. In Tanzania, 61 per cent of girls who do not have an education are married by 18, compared to only five per cent of them who have completed secondary or post-secondary education.

Children with disabilities are among the most disproportionately disadvantaged in the world, too. They are three to four times more likely than their peers to experience physical and sexual violence or neglect.  

In China,children with disabilities are amongst the most deprived groups and face particular challenges in accessing and completing a quality education. Data from the China Disabled Persons’ Federation in 2008 indicated that about a third of special needs children do not complete 9 years of compulsory education.[1] 80 per cent of total children with disabilities live in rural areas.

Conflicts have also created a specific group of excluded children – refugees and internally displaced people. Children born into conflict are dying in greater numbers than those in peaceful countries. On average, twice as many children die before their fifth birthday in conflict zones compared to non-conflict countries.[2]

But discrimination and exclusion are also affecting children in some of the wealthiest countries.

Canada’s indigenous children are also lagging behind compared to the rest of the country’s children, and are suffering as a result of low family income, low educational success rates, poor water quality, high infant mortality and suicide.

“Unless steps are taken to recognise that excluded children exist and to provide them with the services they are entitled to, it will be impossible for all children to survive and thrive – even in the wealthiest countries,” said Watt.

[1] China Disabled Persons’ Federation, The Status Analysis and Strategies Study of Children With Disability in China, CDPF, 2008.

[2]12 out of every 100 children die before their fifth birthday in countries affected by conflict, compared to six out of every 100 children in non-conflict countries.