Central Asia is one of the most rapidly changing areas of the world in terms of politics, environmental issues, and socioeconomic shifts among its inhabitants. Vulnerable citizens are the hardest hit by these changes, especially children.
UNICEF made a statement on children’s rights at the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, and its four main points remain salient in many parts of the world today, including Central Asia. According to the statement, every child has the right to the means to survive, an environment for adequate development, protection from harm, and the right of participation in expressing viewpoints.
While there are current challenges and will be more ahead in this region, there are several organizations and foundations that are making a difference so that children get a chance for their rights to be preserved.
Advances in the Care of Orphaned and Institutionalized Children
An opportunity for a child to survive because of access to clean water, nutritious food, adequate housing, and healthcare is tenuous at best if you are one of the many children institutionalized in a Central Asian orphanage. An even larger challenge is to grow up in an institution with everything you need for adequate development, including education, recreation, and rehabilitation treatment if needed. However, there are some improvements that are happening in Uzbekistan that benefit children in orphanages there.
In Uzbekistan, children with special needs as well as those in orphanages in the country are finding their rights being preserved through two charitable organizations founded by Lola Karimova – Tillyaeva. Her first organization, named You Are Not Alone, has been active in Uzbekistan orphanages since 2002. In the ensuing years, strides have been made in facility renovation, staff training, and resource allocation to ensure that the children have everything they need to survive and even thrive in the environment they live in.
Tillyaeva’s second charitable foundation, the National Centre for the Social Adaptation of Children, assists the development of children in Uzbekistan with special needs. The children that are helped in the program benefit from improved diagnosis, modern neurological and orthopedic treatments, and therapies and education that address social, emotional, and developmental needs. Often times, both charities work in concert with one another to address the special issues of institutionalized children with physical disabilities and developmental delays.
Even though children face minimal chances of finding life outside of orphanages with a family of their own, they can receive an upbringing in a supportive environment that helps them learn and grow.
The two charitable organizations add quality to these children’s life experiences and prepare them for the best future possible. Addressing issues with the children ranging from coping with tragedy to neurological disorders enables them to grow up at their highest functional level possible.
Even though children face minimal chances of finding life outside of orphanages with a family of their own, they can receive as optimal of an environment as possible in which to learn and grow.
Education for Girls Means Participation in the Economy
Girls’ access to education in Central Asia is tenuous at best, with fewer girls completing the equivalent to a middle school education. The Central Asia Institute aims to level the playing field for girls whose families cannot afford after-school tutoring. They have founded their own tutoring program for girls called Student Education Support Program.
The education program endeavors to close the achievement gap for girls and make sure that they do not fall behind in their studies. When girls are able to keep up with the pace of instruction, they are more likely to complete their education. Having a diploma means that the girls will be able to participate more fully in society. They will also have increased access to jobs that can raise the standard of living for themselves and their families.
Protection from Abuse and Exploitation
In countries where children are vulnerable to a wide variety of human rights abuses, child labor is the latest violation that is under the spotlight. Recently, the Human Rights Forum has uncovered that funds from the World Bank have been used to fund projects that involve cotton harvesting by children in Uzbekistan.
The country has promised to eradicate the practice of forcing children as young as seven years old to work in fields picking cotton for two months a year, but international monitoring has proven that the practice is not so easily stopped. Children and others that are forced to work in the fields do not have adequate food, water, housing, or medical attention and are paid little to nothing for their work.
The difficult to monitor situation will be reduced and eliminated only by having multiple agencies reporting human rights abuses across the vast area where cotton is grown.
In regions of the world affected by various political, social, and economic hardships, children often face the greatest challenges. Through a commitment to children’s rights, organizations that make a positive difference for these vulnerable children pave the way for a better future for all of us.