Children's rights

For a century, we’ve stood up for children and made sure their voices are heard. We wrote the treaty that sets out the rights of every child, and we’ve been upholding them every day since.

When it comes to children’s rights, we’ve been there from there start. The world’s first declaration on children’s rights was written by Save the Children’s founder, Eglantyne Jebb, in 1923.

Jebb's Declaration of the Rights of the Child formed the basis for the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC is an international agreement that sets out every child’s fundamental rights to survival and development, including the rights to education, healthcare, protection, and participation.

Almost every country in the world has signed up to the UNCRC - and real progress has been made in many areas, such as under‐5 child mortality, access to education and absolute poverty.

But many countries still fail to prioritise and promote children’s rights - especially the rights of children living in the worst forms of poverty and deprivation or affected by conflict.

We’re fighting for children every day. We believe that every child should not just survive, but thrive, and grow up to make their mark on the world.

A girl attends the Save the Children Jigyasa centre, which she's been visiting for two years.

A framework for justice

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

How we're helping Fouad thrive

Fouad looking happy and holding an adult's hand in Lebanon

Fouad, six, lost his mum when he was just nine months old, leaving him with his unwell grandparents and his dad, who has mental disabilities. As bombs fell on their home town of Aleppo, they had no option but to flee. Fouad’s birth was never registered.

Fouad was turned away from school because he didn’t have any documents. By six years old, Fouad hadn’t learnt how to speak.

Save the children supported Fouad’s family, now in North Lebanon, covering the costs of enrolling him in nursery.

Now Fouad can speak and is even learning the alphabet. He says, “I like to go to school. I learn to write, I have a notebook. I can scribble.”

There are many ways in which children’s rights can be violated. These are just a few examples.

  • 1 in 3 children under five has not had their birth registered, meaning they don’t have an official name or nationality.
  • In half the countries where records exist, more than 80% of children aged 2–14 have experienced violent discipline.
  • Child labour affects 168 million children and around half are involved in hazardous work.

We’re working to make children’s rights a reality through our education, protection, poverty and health programmes and supporting organisations that promote and protect children’s rights.

We're also calling on all governments to recommit to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) by focusing on three key areas:

  • Ensuring all laws fully comply with the UNCRC.
  • Increased government spending on children and ensuring that resources are being used effectively.
  • Establishing an independent ombudsman for the protection and promotion of child rights in every country, and setting up an international complaints procedure for the UNCRC.

How we're standing up for children's rights

Early marriage is on the rise among Syrian girls. We’re working in camps in Jordan and Lebanon to educate young people and parents about children’s reproductive rights. We’re also supporting youth groups to campaign on these issues.

As thousands of child refugees continue to flee Syria and other countries, we’re working in camps and along the routes refugees take into Europe. Our teams identify and protect children travelling alone, and help refugee children understand their rights and the services they are entitled to.

Children in Myanmar face significant child rights violations. We have been listening to children’s experiences and supporting child rights groups. In the run-up to the 2015 elections, we worked with UNICEF to put pressure on parties to prioritise children and give them a fair start in life.

As part of our education improvement programme in Ethiopia, we’ve set up child-to-child support groups in schools. They meet on a weekly basis and give children a chance to discuss their rights and raise concerns about issues outside of school.

By setting up child-friendly spaces, we’re giving children living amid conflict in Yemen a safe place to play and learn. Our teams help them learn about their rights, and give children the chance to make their voices heard.

Alongside partner organisation TASS, we’re teaching communities about children’s rights and child protection as part of a programme to prevent female genital mutilation (FGM).

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