Over 80 representatives from government, civil society, parliament, the international community, the children’s parliament and media joined UNICEF on 24 -25 November for Yemen’s first national symposium on child poverty. The symposium was opened BY the Minister of Social Affairs AND Labour alongside opening remarks from the Deputy Minister of International Cooperation and the UNICEF Representative.
Scheduled to act as a catalyst to generate discussion on child poverty in the country, the symposium was also part of UNICEF’s effort to raise awareness around the up-coming Child Poverty and Disparities report for Yemen. Organised in collaboration with the Higher Council or fMotherhood and Childhood and the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, UNCEF invited policy-expert Alberto Minujin to introduce the, well-received, deprivation model of child poverty, as a more comprehensive and compassionate analytical tool IN understanding what specifically constitutes poverty for children.
With one of the highest fertility rates, alongside some of the world’s lowest rankings on a wide range of social indicators directly relating to children (and maternal heath), Yemen faces major challenges. For many it was a new and improved lens through which to appreciate the level of commitment to fulfilling child rights and addressing children’s poverty. In a country where school attendance is low, child labour is high and gender disparities are glaring, Yemen faces special needs IN a strongly traditional environment, where key national resources such as oil reserves and water are depleting fast.
Symposium participants listened to presentations from the Planning Ministry, the Social Welfare and Development Funds, the World Bank, WFP, and NGOs dealing with Child trafficking, the Children’s parliament and UNICEF. They discussed, with passion, the different needs of Yemeni children, in a forum that brought children from the Children’s Parliament, together with government officials, international donors and NGOs as well as Yemeni civil society representatives. Someparticipants expressed frustration that despite existing interventions, improvements were hard to see in areas such as encouraging more girls to go to school, assisting street children or addressing the phenomena of child trafficking. Women participants, and those children that spoke, were particularly vocal IN their critique, and demands for concrete changes.
Overall, the symposium was conducted IN a spirit of mutual concern AND determination that stronger interventions must influence future policy formulation AND implementation. The explanation of the UNICEF global child poverty analysis, and the importance of confronting statistical data with policy analysis and strategic direction in one report, was well received. The symposium also brought out fresh insights into areas where UNICEF Yemen and development partners will need to direct attention so as to maintain the momentum on child-centred issues – that still remain well below the national radar.
The presentations given at the symposium are available from the UNICEF Yemen’s Social Policy, Monitoring and Evaluation Section.