Children’s Rights in International Social Work : A critical analysis of a campaign by UNICEF

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Avdelningen för socialt arbete

Abstract: Children’s rights and childhood are concepts that are a part of everyday discussions for many people around the world, but the understanding of the concepts shifts through time and space. The Convention on the Right of the Child, CRC, is supposed to protect children’s rights and relies upon the idea of childhood that describes children both as active agents and in need of protection. UNICEF, an organization within the UN, has the CRC as a guiding principle to achieve its mission to improve the lives of every child globally. However, previous research has criticized the CRC and UNICEF for ignoring particular children’s needs and having a western bias. Thus, even if an international social work program aims to protect children’s rights, it can end up excluding the needs of particular groups of children. This study aims to provide an understanding of how the problem of children’s rights discriminations is represented to be in UNICEF’s campaign #ENDviolence. The study fulfills the aim by using Carol Bacchi’s approach “What’s the problem represented to be?” WPR, and its six guiding questions. The empirical data is UNICEF’s campaign report, because the present study aims to investigate children’s rights discrimination, and the organization works with children and uses the CRC as a guiding principle. The study uses the WPR approach because it stresses that problems are created and given meanings through policies and programs. This study also uses the social constructionist theory and the two concepts, intersectionality and intertextuality, to provide a broader understanding. The results show that the campaign does only have a limited intersectional perspective, by not including children’s different identities, relating to such as race, nationality, alternative gender identification and sexuality, and abilities/disabilities, and it also does not acknowledge children’s multiple identities. Instead, the problem representation solely relies upon the concepts of sex (boy/girl) or age. Hence, the campaign leaves particular children and their needs unrecognized. An explanation for this approach is the campaign’s stable intertextual connection to the UN, and the writings, CRC and SDGs, Sustainable development goals. The campaign also tends to have a western bias, through silencing western countries, the data it uses and how it presents the data. The campaign ignores particular children and how institutional structures may affect them differently because of their identities. Thus, discrimination and violence against specific children can continue and suggested solutions would not necessarily help them.

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