The Right to Be Economically “Regular”: What It Means to Be Desperately Poor
What are the human rights of children with respect to the economy? While we might concern ourselves with a range of issues, from being protected from exploitative advertising to being protected from abusive child labor, this chapter focuses on “What rights do children have when it comes to poverty?” Without diminishing or trivializing any of these other issues, I focus on poverty because it an issue of global importance and one that is of preeminent importance in the lives of children around the world.
When I think about poverty, many images flood into my consciousness. I think of all the poverty-stricken children I have met in the United States and around the world. Their faces fill the pictures that line my office walls, just as their stories haunt my memory. Children living in squalor in Brazilian slums. Children playing in open sewers in Guatemala. Children starving in Sudan. Children living in dilapidated public housing projects in Chicago. But I always come back to my mother’s life as a poor child in England in the 1920s and 1930s as an anchoring point.
My mother’s family did not starve and they had clothes on their backs, but they had few material possessions, and more importantly, they lived on the edge of economic disaster. And it took its toll: One of her siblings and both her parents literally died from the accumulated stress of living in poverty. She tells many stories of what it meant to be poor in England in the 1930s, but one of her memories of growing up poor touches me particularly.
KeywordsInfant Mortality Income Inequality Gini Index Extreme Poverty Poor Child
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