Actions Speak Louder Than Money for Charities

06.24.2005 | Faculty, Campus and CommunityHuman rights organizations claim American children work to the point of suffering daily nosebleeds, plummeting blood pressure and pesticide illnesses. Nearly 300,000 children are in prostitution and as many as 17,500 children a year are sold for sex.

More "elbow grease" and less focus on charitable contributions would help rid poverty and human rights abuses among children, said a former top Catholic university president and contributor to a book on children's human rights to be released next week.

"People in poverty and those working in partnership with them can work to change (policy-making) institutions and build strong communities," said Bro. Raymond Fitz, S.M., one of seven University of Dayton contributors to Children's Human Rights: Progress and Challenges for Children Worldwide. "People can build networks that allow the underprivileged to escape their situations and prepare them for success."

The book, co-edited by Mark Ensalaco, director of international studies and human rights program, and Linda Majka, sociology professor, shows the global effect of poverty, trafficking, illegal child labor and the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ensalaco said possible policy changes to address abuses include countries tightening borders or entering cross-national police agreements if their countries are ripe for child trafficking. Also, governments can pressure companies to lower AIDS drug prices, making them more affordable to poorer nations. Locally, investments in parks or after-school programs would make a difference.

Majka and her husband Theo, also a University sociology professor, discussed immigrant labor and said increasing or even enforcing the minimum wage is a good place to start.

"From you and I wanting cheaper food to the government not enforcing labor laws, the entire system is at fault. There is a lot of blame to go around," Theo Majka said.

Linda Majka added many migrant children are deprived of the means of competition without a proper education.

"It creates a cycle of poverty," she said.

Ensalaco said the Convention makes the protection and development of children an international legal obligation that changes public policy debates.

"It now becomes a question of law and not charity," Ensalaco said. "A cost-effectiveness debate cannot be the sole criterion when discussing children's human rights."

The United States and Somalia are the only two countries that have not ratified the Convention.

Margaret Karns, a University political science professor who wrote a chapter examining the Convention's implementation with recent University graduate Jill Gerschutz, said the United States' record on signing or ratifying human rights conventions is "terrible."

"It hasn't ratified the conventions on women or economic, social and cultural rights. It took 50 years to ratify the genocide convention," she said. "This country is slow to recognize positive rights — education, home, health, literacy and vaccinations."

Karns said implementing the Convention is a complex political process involving domestic laws and cultural practices in 190 countries. Yet, it is important to follow up the convention's rhetoric with action and results.

"There have been positive steps in the last 15 years," Karns said. "Sixty countries have reduced child mortality by a third and there have been 61 fewer deaths per thousand in poorer countries for children five years old and younger."

The United States rates how other countries fare on human rights and withholds foreign aid from offenders, said Jaro Bilocerkowycz, an associate political science professor.

He adds that tightening borders in the war on terror hinders child traffickers because it is more difficult for people to move internationally. The result is the number of people being trafficked into the United States has been reduced "from 50,000 to around 15,000 per year."

Sister Laura Leming, F.M.I., an assistant sociology professor, said people tend to blame poverty on individual human weaknesses rather than factors like unfair banking practices, discrimination, sickness or natural disasters.

"People should not isolate themselves from these issues so the problem isn't nameless or faceless," Leming said. "Once you know a poor person, it becomes a personal problem."

The Templeton Foundation selected the University as having one of the nation's best service-learning programs that encourages students to learn through volunteer activity, and as one of 100 U.S. colleges that encourages character development and prepares students for lives of personal and civic responsibility.

The book, published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc., is available on Amazon.com in hardcover for $75 and in paperback for $29.95.

Human rights academicians from Ireland, Canada and Nicaragua also wrote chapters.

For more information or interviews, contact Shawn Robinson at (937) 229-3391.