It's likely one-year-old Rana was malnourished the entire year she'd been alive, since aid hadn't reached the village in her lifetime. Doctors could do nothing by the time she was admitted to the field hospital just north of the Syrian capital of Damascus. She died within 24 hours of admittance. Rana was born, and died, during the civil war that is slowly attacking Syria's children. The people left in her ghost town of Moadamia are bargaining chips for the rebel Free Syrian Army, which refuses to relinquish control of the area long enough for humanitarian groups to distribute aid. For these children of war every aspect of their life has been diminished, or stolen.
More than 250,000 children under 18 are involved in at least 17 conflicts around the world today. In 2008 Romeo Dallaire, now a Canadian Senator, founded the Child Soldiers Initiative to raise awareness, pressure world governments to take action, and train police and military forces from around the world to protect children and prevent them from being recruited as soldiers.
On October 11, 2012 the world marked the first-ever International Day of the Girl. The celebration was bittersweet, though, given it occurred against the backdrop of worldwide shock and headlines concerning 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a young activist from Pakistan, shot in the head by a Taliban member because of her ongoing work and advocacy to ensure more girls get to go to school.
This fall, we released a report from this study called, Hopes and Dreams, which provides a detailed look into the girls' lives at the tender age of five. There was good news: the majority of the girls in our study have parents who have high aspirations for them and who promote gender equality in their households.
We've all heard the complaints about today's "apathetic" youth, but it's the adults who seem reluctant to step up. We can't help but feel that adults are passing the buck. If we want our kids to make change, they should witness us fighting city hall, building a school or even casting a ballot. If we don't set an example, we are naïve to think children will forge their own paths.