New Government must prioritize child poverty reduction
In response to the fact that at least one third of Montenegro’s children are at risk of poverty.
PODGORICA, 1 JUNE 2023 – In response to the fact that at least one third of Montenegro’s children are at risk of poverty, the United Nations Children’s Fund – UNICEF, the Centre for Child Rights, the Centre for Roma Initiatives, the First Association of Parents of Children and Youth with Developmental Disabilities, and the Pedagogical Centre of Montenegro are calling upon all political actors to commit to prioritizing child poverty reduction in the coming years.
As a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Montenegro has committed itself to guaranteeing for every girl and boy the right to live a life free of poverty.
The Multidimensional Child Poverty Study in Montenegro, recently published by UNICEF, shows that more than 80 per cent of all Montenegro’s children, and 96 per cent of Roma children, are deprived in at least one of the seven dimensions essential for a child’s development: health; nutrition; early childhood development and education; neglect and discipline; child labour; and quality housing conditions, such as water and sanitation facilities, among others.
Breaking the cycle of poverty depends primarily on investments by governments in children’s rights and wellbeing, and in women’s rights. For this reason, we are calling upon all political actors to unite for Montenegro’s children by committing to invest sufficient funds to provide adequate quality services in health, education and child protection to children growing up in poverty. Without significant state support, these children cannot end the multigenerational cycle of poverty. This is in the best interest of the entire country’s development.
The national at-risk-of-poverty rate is 21.2 per cent. However, a child is far more likely to grow up poor in the northern region of Montenegro, where the poverty rate (45%) is considerably higher than in the central (15%) and southern (12%) regions. Poverty experienced by children, even over short periods, can affect the rest of their lives.
We are calling upon all political actors to commit to prioritizing the safety of children and to taking urgent interventions to reduce poverty, particularly among vulnerable groups of children. We expect them to make additional efforts to design high-quality, sustainable and accessible social protection programmes that integrate complementary services in health, education and child protection, thereby empowering our children to reach their full potential in transitioning into adulthood and leading independent and productive lives.
Poverty is experienced in a very acute way by young children and adolescents because of the stigma it carries. Fana Delija from the Centre for Roma Initiatives is calling upon all political actors to commit to reducing multidimensional poverty among Roma and Egyptian children in Montenegro and to addressing the associated risks of segregation and social exclusion by providing better housing conditions, nutrition and access to basic services. "We urge all political actors, especially if they become part of the new government after the elections, to find systemic solutions to combat child marriages within the Roma and Egyptian communities, as they are one of the key causes of poverty", Delija said.
Breaking the cycle of poverty requires intersectoral efforts to increase the participation of Roma and Egyptian children in early childhood education and schooling, including providing nutritious meals in educational institutions, which would lead to greater social inclusion and improved outcomes in terms of learning, nutrition and health.
Evidence has shown that societies around the world are paying a steep price for not intervening efficiently and mitigating the negative effects of child poverty. More than half of Montenegro’s children who do not attend an early education programme live in the poorest families.
Savo Knezevic from the NGO First Association of Parents of Children and Youth with Developmental Disabilities is calling upon all political actors to commit to urgently reducing child poverty in Montenegro through intersectoral collaboration to improve access to social, educational, healthcare and early intervention services for children with developmental disabilities, especially in rural areas of the country.
The quality of care, development and education that a child receives in early childhood and later according to their abilities, as well as adequate employment, play a crucial role in determining their chances of living a fulfilling life in adulthood, directly impacting the reduction of poverty for the individual and their family.
The Pedagogical Centre of Montenegro also joined the appeal to make a reduction in child poverty in Montenegro a priority for all political actors. They emphasize that providing high-quality, inclusive education for every child is crucial for eradicating poverty.
As an organization actively involved in efforts to include all children and young people in Montenegro’s educational system, with a particular focus on children affected by poverty, we expect urgent, high-quality and efficient measures from political actors for the full integration of children from vulnerable groups into kindergartens, primary and secondary schools. This path towards integration primarily requires the effective collaboration of all institutions and their willingness to provide additional and binding support for basic human rights: the right to quality education and equality for all.
Children living in poverty who receive adequate support have a better opportunity to continue their education, get paid jobs, make a living and help their communities prosper.
Therefore, what the new government will do to reduce child poverty affects the entire economy and every person living in Montenegro. For these reasons, parliamentary election campaigns should address this human rights issue, as it is at the heart of Montenegro’s development.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, known as UNICEF, was established in 1946 and is the world’s leading source of credible data and analysis on children, using evidence to advocate for children and policies that improve their lives.
UNICEF is working with governments and communities in more than 190 countries and territories to support children worldwide to realize their rights and fulfil their potential, from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF’s work for children is recognized by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.