Nov. 20 is National Child Day. It is a day to celebrate children and reflect on the Rights of the Child as adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, 1989 and signed by Canada 1990.
Rights include: health, education, culture, play, and freedom to speak and be heard. Children need and have a right to nurture and nourishment.
Article 24 of the declaration states the right of children to nutritious food. Let’s look at that. The beautiful Cowichan Valley is a potentially wonderful place to grow up, yet demographics of our community noted in the Local Area Health Profile, the BC Child Poverty Report Card and School District 79 EDI results are distressing. They indicate that many children are disadvantaged within all socioeconomic levels.
Dr. Stanwick, Island Health’s Chief Medical Officer has a vision for the children and youth on Vancouver Island.
“I’d like to see every child supported to reach their potential regardless of their family circumstance,” he said.
He lists availability of cheaper, calorie-dense goods, more meals eaten away from home and less physical activities, as detrimental to health later in life and contribute to the rise in childhood type 2 diabetes (Island Health Magazine, Fall 2015).
Dr. Paul Hasselback, the Medical Health Officer with Island Health, urged the CVRD to take up the challenge to create a strategic plan for the wellbeing of children in the community. He said, “Twenty per cent of our children are living in poverty and that is not acceptable.” (Cowichan Valley Citizen, April 17, 2015).
Many local families do not earn a living wage. In a two earner family, the living wage rate would be $17.04 each, per hour. There is a rise in statistics of children using local food banks. Those working with families know of the struggles parents face in juggling priorities regarding buying nutritious foods or paying the rent and bills. Article 27 of the Declaration states, “Children have a right to a standard of living sufficient to meet their physical and mental needs, and that governments should help families who can not afford to provide this standard.”
Families with a “good enough” standard of living would not have the need to go to food banks and parents would not have the need to stress over how to feed and clothe their children.
Yes, children have rights! Many community members generously support food banks and also wonder what else to do to bring about more social sustainability and ensure that basic needs are met. What can be done? We can:
• Learn more about the rights of the child
• Reduce judgemental attitudes about poverty.
• Support programs like community kitchens and community gardens
• Do random acts of kindness.
A local pay it forward story captures the financial stress of one parent. She was discreetly given a $25 dollar gift card for the grocery store she was shopping in. The small amount would not buy much, yet the emotional appreciation was overwhelming.
In the bigger picture lobby for systemic change such as:
• Affordable high quality child care where nutritious food can be provided.
• More affordable, decent, safe housing.
• Implementation of the “living wage”
• Implementation of a poverty reduction plan.
• Encourage every level of government to keep social issues on their agendas and to thank them when they take action.
• Listen to the children; they can help with community solutions.
In 2007 Social Planning Cowichan established a Regional Child Care Council, which was involved in creating a report on Child Care in the Valley. Five recommendations were made based on the findings of the local research.
In 2014 the Child Care Council transitioned to independent status, now called the Children and Family Council, and work collaboratively with Success By 6 and Aboriginal Success By 6.
This month, when you see someone wearing a “heart string” (a pink heart on blue ribbon), ask them why they are wearing it. You can make heartstrings and pass them out to family and friends. Let’s keep the culture of caring for children visible in Cowichan.
To Learn more visit: The Child Rights Education week website http://crew-sede.wix.com/nov2015:
Link to Paul Kershaw Generation Squeeze website: www.gensqueeze.ca
First call Poverty Report Card: http://still1in5.ca/?page_id=23
For more information or any questions, contact Laura Court, Coordinator Success By 6, 250-701-3647.