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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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2.1 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The need to support, promote and ultimately to improve children’s health has been recognised by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989).

The first Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the League of Nations in 1924 inspired by the work of Eglantyne Jebb who founded the organisation Save the Children. This important declaration stressed various key rights for all children such as right to food, health care, education and protection from exploitation which, at the time, were not seen to be the priority in many policy making decisions. Even though not a legal document there was a duty placed on the international community to put children’s rights at the centre of all planning in matters that affected children’s daily lived experiences which was clearly a major shift in thinking.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, subsequently adopted in 1989, has been approved by all but one nation (the United States of America) (UNICEF, 2017). This Convention has had a further significant effect on the way that children are both seen and treated. They are now viewed as human beings with their own independent set of rights, and sense of agency, instead of the passive recipients of adult care and charity (Save the Children, 2019).

The process of changing attitudes on a global scale has undoubtedly been slow. However more nations and governments recognise the importance of education for children. Many countries provide free, compulsory schooling for all children, regardless of their gender, race, refugee status or special needs. However, many children are still part of the workforce, often in dangerous occupations, or are forced into marriage at a young age, experiences which have negative effects on their physical and mental health.