Putting Children First event calls for action to tackle child poverty

October 23, 2017 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Prof Jane Mariara, Executive Director of PEP, made a keynote speech at the ‘Putting Children First’ conference in Ethiopia. The conference theme was identifying solutions for fighting child poverty and inequality in Africa.

October 23, 2017 - The Executive Director of PEP, Prof Jane Mariara, made a keynote speech during the first plenary session at the Putting Children First conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The conference, held October 23-25, was organized by the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty, of which PEP is a member. The event brought together policymakers, researchers and NGOs to identify solutions for fighting child poverty and inequality in Africa.

Despite important strides in the fight against poverty over the past two decades with nearly 1.1 billion people escaping extreme poverty since 1990, child poverty remains widespread and persistent, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

As children across the world are most likely to be poor, with 50 percent of extremely poor children living in sub-Saharan Africa the main objective of the event was to build on the momentum of the SDGs to ensure that children remain at the centre of the agenda in Africa and other parts of the world.

Child poverty is everyone's problem

Agnes Akosua Aidoo, African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), who presented during the opening session of the event, said:

“Poverty affects children in lifelong ways, from malnutrition, poor health, lack of success in school, harmful labour and an overall poor quality of life. Not only is this extremely damaging for children and their families, but it has a lasting and detrimental impact on the prosperity and the wellbeing of their countries. Child poverty is everyone’s problem, and national governments should make addressing it their absolute priority.”

H.E. Ms. Demitu Hambisa, Minister for the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Ethiopia also spoke at the opening session, alongside Leila Pakkala, Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF, and Dr Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of the Social Development Policy Division (ECA) on behalf of the Executive Secretary, ECA.

Setting the scene

Prof Jane Mariara, Executive Director of PEP, then presented a keynote speech on identifying poor children: who and where they are (pdf). She said:

“Traditionally, poor children are identified by the poverty of the household but this ignores possible positive or negative intra-household discrimination towards children. Similarly, targeting monetary-poor children misses many who are significantly deprived in other dimensions. Improving identification strategies is the first step to improving social protection targeting.”

Prof Mariara's presentation "really helped to set the scene and start the debate about poverty measurement," said Keetie Roelen from the Institute of Development Studies. Following the presentation, Carolina Sanchez of the World Bank and Enrique Delamonica of UNICEF, Nigeria led a very interesting discussion on the subject. Dr Delamonica raised several important points: 

  • Measures to address monetary and multi-dimensional poverty should be combined to fully understand what is happening to children.
  • Child poverty is as important as adult poverty and policies aiming to address poverty need to consider both.
  • While it was widely accepted that multi-dimensional poverty needs to be measured, the dimensions to include and how to weight them remain areas for discussion.
Sharing knowledge and experience to find solutions to child poverty

The conference offered a platform for bridging divides across sectors, disciplines and policy, practice and research and an opportunity to share knowledge and experience. Keetie Roelen said:

“Responses and solutions to child poverty are both available and affordable. The provision of social protection that has children at the heart, has now been widely tested and proven in many African countries. However, much room and urgency for improvement remains. Learning about what works and innovative solutions for children in poverty are needed, most of all, in places where there is instability, conflict and weak institutional capacity to deliver.”

Bridging the research-policy gap

The conference aimed to bridge the gaps between policymakers, practitioners, civil society and researchers (pdf) in recognition of the importance of and opportunity for using knowledge and evidence generated from well-focused research on children in poverty in Africa to inform the design of more effective policies and programmes - and to address the multi-dimensional and complex challenges of poverty. It was framed around four overarching themes:

  1. Setting the Scene: Who and Where are the Poor Children?
  2. Child Sensitive Social Protection: Making Social Protection Work for Children
  3. Ensuring Access to Basic Services for All: Reaching and Linking the Poorest and most Marginalised
  4. Supporting Secure Transitions to Adulthood

Ultimately it aimed to ‘make evidence matter’ for the poorest and most marginalised children. This is to inspire action and mobilise champions among policymakers, politicians, civil society and other key decision-makers throughout African societies.


The Putting Children First conference was co-organized by a cross-section of policy, NGO, and research organisations to bring a diverse range of perspectives to the discussions:




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