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1.1 Background of the study
In recent years, the widespread child poverty and its consequences of children vulnerability in developing countries are in great interest for many scholars of both academic and development field with the strong motivation of finding appropriate policy changes to eradicate poverty or at least alleviate it. United Nations special agency for children, UNICEF conducted a study upon that and stated that nearly half of the income-poor are associated with children. Its estimation extend that at least 600 million children (under the age of 18) are struggling to survive on less than US$ 1 a day all over the world. They represent a staggering 40% of children in developing countries. Non-income indicators tell a similar story. Gordon et al. (2003) use household survey data from 46 developing countries to examine the incidence of severe deprivation among children along eight dimensions of wellbeing - food, water, sanitation, health, shelter, education, information and access to services. They find that one in two children in the sample suffers from severe deprivation in at least one dimension, and that one in three suffers from two or more forms of severe deprivation.
The incidence of infant mortality for developing countries shows that poverty and vulnerability have an impact not only on the quality of their lives, but also on the quantity of life. Concerns with the incidence and depth of poverty among children also reflect an understanding of the long-term consequences of poverty and vulnerability in childhood. The biggest detrimental effects of child poverty are not only it extends over the entire life but also it can generate intergenerational poverty persistence. Causes of intergenerational poverty has been explained by many scholars and many of the scholars agreed that child poverty is strongly associated it. Child poverty is associated with problems in schooling and school drop outs resulting in lower educational attainment. This lead to long-term effects on future productive capacity in their later life consequences follow by lower standard of living. Child poverty in under-developed and developing countries always leads to malnutrition and stunting. Malnourished girls, in particular, have a greater likelihood of giving birth to low birth weight babies jeopardizing their life chances. Nutritional deficiencies during childhood also lead to lower the learning outcomes, with inter-generational effects, because the education of mothers has been shown to be particularly important to children's wellbeing.
Appropriate policy responses to child poverty and vulnerability are therefore very much important and if not appropriately tackle, these children are disproportionately represented among the income-poor, will suffer from severe deprivation. And their child poverty and vulnerability have rooted on them with long-term detrimental consequences for their future and even to that of their future generation, more children. There is much to be learned from existing policy responses to child poverty and vulnerability in developing and transition countries to understand their countries and child poverty situation, so that the world can help the children from these countries more appropriately.
In the mean time, the new paradigm of development on children dramatically shift from the considering children as "marginal subjects" within health and education programmes, to the "development target group", through the emergence of child rights. The claims of disadvantaged children are no more the negotiable ground of welfare or needs based approaches. These are the children's specific and universal rights that must be honored. Hence, the classical images of children as "passive and vulnerable" are now greatly transformed into those which invoke their "active participation for their rights".
In Myanmar, the number of development agencies working on child poverty has risen dramatically since1990s. As like else where, poverty remains the primary context of and rationale for intervention for these entire child focused project interventions and services in Myanmar. Even though the overall focus is customized within this child-focused community, however, the development problem is receiving a distinctly cultural twist. One of the core difficulties facing disadvantaged children are attributed by the absence of child rights in Myanmar culture. Hence, these agencies are working not only to alleviate the child poverty but also sought in raising 'child rights awareness'. Without these rights, the problems of these vulnerable children are attributed not only to exploitation as being poor, but to their non-recognition as children. The remedy lies not only in addressing the structures that produce child poverty, but also in convincing parents, employers, civil society and the state to recognize children as a distinct social group with specific rights in the society. This impetus for work on child rights derives from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). The shift from 'welfare' to 'rights' and political economy to culture in the language of development agencies in Myanmar reflects their membership of the global development community.
1.2 Research purpose and questions
The purpose of this dissertation is to answer the following questions:
1. How is the situation of child poverty in Myanmar? This question investigates the general understanding of situation of child poverty in Myanmar.
2. How it is conceptualized and measure poverty in Myanmar? This question investigates the understanding of poverty in country specific situation and how do they normally measure poverty.
3. What are the causes and consequences of child poverty in Myanmar? This question investigates whether this child poverty is related to inter-generational poverty, parent's education, lack of welfare services etc.
4. Is there any violation of rights due to the child poverty? This question will investigates detail about the violation of rights which expressed in UNCRC if any.
1.3 Rationale of this study
Most of the early studies upon the child poverty and child right centered mostly on Latin America, but recent studies have extended the focus to countries in Africa and Asia. Still there are very few mainstream studies about Myanmar, and specifically no study on child poverty, child right and consequences of child poverty so far, this dissertation will contribute to the better understanding of these issues in Myanmar.
Additionally, there always been a problematic for accessing into Myanmar by the various foreign scholars and researchers, their findings of various studies in the similar areas may need to be testified. This dissertation will try to fill the gaps by providing an in-depth analysis of the child poverty and child right situation as well as consequences of child poverty in the country Myanmar as being a Myanmar citizen researcher. All the findings and results can compare with the international findings upon child right, child poverty and its consequences so that the international community will provide better policy advices to help the children of Myanmar as a global concern.
The concept of "Poverty" has travelled a long way since the development of society through from time to time in history. Contemporary conception of poverty is well associated with "social exclusion", "life chances" and "autonomy and dignity". And there are various means to measurement the poverty, simply from measuring the basic survival needs identified by absolute poverty or poverty line to relative poverty, by simply comparing others. Even though the conception and measurement have been changed from basic survival needs to more comprehensive dimension of life with response to the progress of industrialization, poverty has ever been an eternal and ever-existing problem facing the society and the states at all times. It presents not only in the under developed or developing countries, but also in most developed countries.
Until the states reach to the welfare states model, the society has to rely solely on their own household and the employment opportunities to solve in order to tackle their poverty problem and to survive as economically well-being in our modern dynamic societies. But still, there are very specific populations of the society, the children, who are too young and not competent enough to enter into employment market. Hence, the children are the most vulnerable and high risk for the poverty in our daily life.
When poverty hits to the children, there are various consequences happened including shortens their lives due to not receiving the proper health care from the states, born with too small (low birth weight), deteriorating in their development and more likely to leave school at 16 with fewer qualifications . Yet, there are many other consequences due to the child in poverty, generally we can say that it seriously destroy all the four basic rights of a child in all four perspectives of survival, development, protection and participations.
Myanmar is the largest country in mainland South East Asia and it has land area of 676,578 square kilometers. It has a total population of 51.5 million people . Even though Myanmar is one of the resource-rich countries in the South East Asian region, the political turmoil and economic instability have been driving the country to be one of the poorest in the region since its independence from British colonial in 1947. Now the country, with per capita GDP below US$600 , is ruled by one of the most repressive authoritarian regimes in the world, and has had a military-backed government for the past 50 years . Continuous economic deterioration aggravated by government irresponsibility in recent decades severely has been undermining the socio-economic conditions of the majority. As the government budget upon military spending is more than 40 percents, and less welfare services, the economic and social conditions are getting worse and worse. This situation was aggravated by economic sanctions from various countries all over the world since 1990.
Even though the military government claimed that there is no poverty in the country, but there are many un-met needs present all over the countries. Especially after the natural disaster of cyclone Nargis hits to Ayeyarwaddy division and then to Bago division, Yangon division and Mon division on 2nd and 3rd of May 2008, the situation of poverty become more worsen in these area. Yangon city, which is former capital of the country with most vibrant economic opportunities, become the place for the people from Ayeyarwaddy division to migrate to start their new life as they cannot survive in the natural disaster hit area. Most of the families from this disaster area move to the area called Hlaing Thar Yar Township which is one of the mid-ways between down town Yangon and the Ayeyarwaddy division. Hence all the people who are in extreme poverty are now concentrated in this township. And the children from this township are facing the consequences of all the poverty related problems in their daily life.
According to the United Nation Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), a child is defined as anyone whose age is under 18 years. But locally, according to Myanmar child law, a child is defined as any one whose age is less than 16 years of age and age between 16 to 18 years is termed youth . And both UNCRC as well as Myanmar child law already clearly mentioned the basic rights of the children for their best interest for the development both physically, mentally and spiritually. But when there is a very serious condition of poverty present for them, all these basic rights are affected resulting in the abnormal development and eventually loss of their life.
In Myanmar, the children in this specific township are more prone to these risks due to their high concentration of families with poverty. This paper is trying to examine the situation of child poverty in this township and their consequences.