Susmita Mondal, 18, is an activist against child marriage in her community, Dacope, Bangladesh.
The life prospects of children trapped in intergenerational cycles of poverty and disadvantage might seem like a matter of chance – an unlucky draw in a lottery that determines which children will live or die, which have enough to eat, can go to school, see a doctor or play in a safe place.
But while children’s origins are largely a matter of fate, the opportunities available to them are not. They are the result of choices – choices made in our communities, societies, international institutions and, most of all, our governments.
We know that the right choices can change the lives of millions of children – because we have seen it. National action, new partnerships and global commitments have helped drive tremendous – even transformational – change. Children born today are significantly less likely to live in poverty than those who were born 15 years ago. They are over 40 per cent more likely to survive to their fifth birthday and more likely to be in school.
But far too many children have not shared in this progress.
Reaching these forgotten children must be at the centre of our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, which pledge to leave no one behind. The 2030 goals cannot be reached if we do not accelerate the pace of our progress in reaching the world’s most disadvantaged, vulnerable and excluded children.
We must reverse this course – and we can. Inequity is not inevitable; nor is it insurmountable. With the right investments, at the right time, we can reduce the inequities that limit children’s life chances today, so that they can lead more productive lives as adults and pass on more opportunity to their own children. We can transform the vicious cycle of disadvantage into a virtuous cycle of equity that benefits all of us.
Drawing from the work of UNICEF and partners, the five key areas that follow – information, integration, innovation, investment and involvement – represent broad, often overlapping, pathways to equity. They encompass operating principles and critical shifts that can help governments, development partners, civil society and communities shape policies and programmes with the potential to make that fair chance a reality for every child.
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