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Why Are Children's Rights and Women's Rights Often Linked
How Is It Possible to Link Children's Rights with Women's Rights?
When I first began volunteering with the Sama Tata Foundation, I had an interesting conversation with my colleague friend and initial founder, Bineta Diop, that hasn't left my mind. This conversation revolved around why we were partnering with the 50 Women Project, a sister non-profit that focuses on empowering women, and why we were attending the UN Convention on the Status of Women every year, once again, a forum that focuses on women's rights. The other reasons why she mentioned we were involved made sense to me: mutual friends we wanted to help out, major opportunities to help us become a strong, active, organization, good forums that help to make the world a better place. However, one answer for some reason threw me off, and still kind of does. This answer that Bineta gave me, that for some reason doesn't make sense is that "women's rights are often linked with children's rights". When she told me this, I remember saying to her, "this didn't make any sense." I got the impression she was a little confused herself. I will admit that I don't remember her exact answer, however at that moment all I was concerned about as answering for myself Bineta's statement that it is commonly perceived that "women's rights are linked to children's rights." This article is going to explore some of the answers I came up with to explain this statement, according to research, experience and empiricism. I will admit, I'm still trying to answer this question so that I can better formulate my own answers and thoughts related to it. Maybe, however, you'll start thinking about this and maybe decide your own answers and thoughts that can help, and the rest of the world improve the rights of women and children everywhere.
A Simple Statement With Complicated Answers
Shortly after I finished this conversation with Bineta, I began to look over some fo the research I had done for Dr. Carol Cohn, while I was her research assistant intern at the Boston Consortium for Gender, Security and Human Rights. The research I had done for Dr. Cohn was on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325, and its progress of insuring equal representation of women and men in the international community over the past decade. I looked carefully at the language used for many of the speeches given by the representatives from the various member-states present at these meetings held annually about the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325. I noticed that in quite a few of the speeches, women and children were mentioned in the same breath. They were normally mentioned in the same breath, when it came to the needs of former child soldiers during DDR programs, but also in helping families with their post-conflict needs. I also noticed that women and children were mentioned the same breath, when discussions of the mass rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo came up. This is primarily because girls and sometimes boys are the subject of rape in addition to grown women.
This usage of the words "women and children," "girls and women", and "boys and girls" made me think of a report Dr. Dyana Mazurana wrote about a conference that was designed to better assist women affected by conflict. Many of the women had entered into the conflict as girls either because they chose to join the armed forces groups, married someone and/or had a family member involved with the armed opposition group they joined, or were kidnapped and brought to the armed opposition group.when they were young. Soon, these girls grow up into young women, and end up participating with the armed opposition group in higher positions of authority, begin fighting along side their male counterparts, and/or they continue their work within the group. Often, these young women or girls within sexual maturity will have children of their own during the conflict. If the child is old enough, he or she might fight alongside mother and father because of the armed opposition group's need for people. Therefore, the reason why women and children's rights are often confused and become marginalized is because the international community doesn't seem to be fully aware of the true participation that women and/or children have not only in international conflicts, but other human rights issues.
However, some of that could also be the language used in current international treaties, conventions and resolutions. For example, the language for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, mimics some of the rights mentioned for all individuals in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and on other documents that protect women under international law. These rights normally include the right to life, to family, to the legal system, and to protection from the state. There is nothing wrong with emphasizing these rights for women and children, because it does clarify that women and children are indeed entitled to these rights. However, you noticed that in that previous sentence that I didn't distinguish between women or children, but instead, grouped them together with "and"? This is probably because psychologically, i have grouped them together due to the vague, general language. The slightest distinction that is made regarding women versus children's rights is that children are the responsibility of their parents and/or legal guardian while such is not stated about women. Apart from that, the definition of women's rights versus children's rights from an international context is rather vague, to the point where the distinctions are not well defined. Therefore, this can create confusion in regards to how to properly help women or children who have experienced human rights violations. Furthermore, this lack of detailed, defined terms regarding the rights of women versus children can create confusion and also promote ignorance regarding specific issues that solely plague children.
However, this vague and generalized use of language could be attributed to several different issues. First, is the fact that traditionally issues regarding women and children have always been grouped. This is because women are often the caregivers of children, but also give birth to children. Second, issues regarding women, children and the elderly are considered aspects of "soft power" to the state. "Soft power" is a term used to describe items that the state can enact policies on to reflect its power that are considered less powerful and important than "hard power" issues such as war, peace, and diplomacy. Helping children and women can be considered a soft power issue because the state would assist them as an effort to fulfill its international commitments, but also serve as an example for its fellow member-states within the international community. However, if there is a case where the same state has to send its troops off to defend itself because of an unexpected conflict, or needs to use some of its legislative energy and/or time to improve its tariff laws, that will take precedent over improving the rights for women and/or children. Third, the rights and issues related to children have traditionally been considered the concerns of women, whom are normally not seen as valid participants of the state, while men are considered valid state participants, yet not to be worried with the concerns and needs of children. Even though female participation within the state has changed dramatically in recent decades and children's rights are more recognized by various state actors, it still seems to be difficult for some male officials within the state to see past the traditional idea that children's issues are non-state related issues that are the only concerns of women. Fourth, children are normally not considered active members of the state. This is most likely because they are considered by their states ineligible to vote and/ or work, therefore are not actively contributing to the state's welfare.
Should Children's Rights Be Separate from Women's Rights
What Do You Think? Should Women's Rights Be Separate from Children's Rights?
Can Children's Rights and Women's Rights Ever Be Distinguished From One Another?
In recent years, I have noticed more of a distinction between women's rights and children's rights. For example, I notice more non-profits that focus on children's rights only, and the United Nations is starting to use the words "children" and "women" are being used more frequently in separate contexts. However, the progress towards truly separating the aspects of children's rights from women's rights that should be is happening slowly. So, what do you think? Take the following poll to let us know us know whether you think children's rights and women's rights should be separated or not!
Do Children's Rights Need to Be Separated From Women's Rights
In conclusion, there are situations where a separation between children's rights and women's rights could be more defined. For example, there are occasions when children who have been victims of begging, slavery, soldering, and human trafficking where a mother cannot be found, let alone a legal guardian. There are also cases where the legal guardian, mother, father or other relative doesn't even take responsibility for the child in question, which leaves the state as the only one to assist said child. Let us not forget the children who claim asylum everyday who are not accompanied by their parents, let alone their mothers. Therefore, in these situations, children's rights should be distinguished from women's rights. However, there are occasions where children are under the care of their legal guardians, whether that be their mothers, fathers or someone else. In these cases a child's rights and a woman's rights shouldn't be separated, because in these cases a woman's rights and the child's are linked. For example, if a mother and child are both claiming asylum, a pregnant woman needs medical care that could save both her life and her unborn child's, or if the child didn't receive proper medical care under the mother's supervision. Let us also not forget that to assume that women are the only caregivers of children; men often are the caregivers of children in many households. Therefore to assume that women's rights should only be connected to children's rights is not entirely true. However, in order for the international community to reach this point, it will need to familiarize itself with all aspects of women's and children rights in order to better define the differences and similarities. This will take time, however once that's accomplished, it might be more possible to improve the rights for women and children, according to their individual needs and desires to live the best lives they can.
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