Save the Children: Partnering to enhance the lives of children
This year, C&A Foundation celebrates five years of making fashion a force for good by bringing together beneficiaries, allies and changemakers as part of our broader vision to unite the industry and set the stage for a profound industry transformation. Through this story series, we highlight five of our partners that have been with us on this journey, share our ideals and work with courage and conviction every single day to be true and powerful forces for good.
Alex Brans, International Programmes Director at Save the Children, and Adriana Bellini, Senior Partnership Manager, speak to us about their work to enhance children’s lives worldwide by tackling, among other areas, concerns around children in emergency contexts, cities that are fit for children and children's rights within the apparel industry.
In 2015, Save the Children and C&A Foundation began a partnership to empower children in crisis and their families around the world. Our partnership and programmes have grown and evolved over time and it is great to be able to see the impact our work is having in strengthening children and communities in need.
Brans has worked in the humanitarian aid sector for 30 years and is passionate about his work. “Children are the future. If you get it right for a child, you get it right for the future,” he says. Bellini has been involved with non-profit organisations since she was a teenager and tells us she has always had a strong determination to do meaningful work by contributing to society. “I think we can achieve so much at Save the Children through educating and raising awareness for the children.”
Building child-friendly cities
Save the Children encourages and directly supports brands and manufacturers to look at their supply chain through a child rights angle and adjust their practices accordingly. “We want all industries to take responsibility for the well-being of their workforce and ensure decent working opportunities for all, but especially in regards of juvenile workers” Brans explains.
Save the Children has a strong focus on humanitarian interventions and C&A Foundation's support allowed the organisation to expand its urban resilience and disaster risk reduction programmes, which aim to make communities stronger and more resilient and to reduce the impact of potential disasters. An all-new systemic approach focused on creating cities that are fit for children, is currently underway. The premise is to ensure that urban context considers children rights. Garment industries, often located in big cities employ workers, many of which live in informal settlements.
These urban programmes focus on implementing structural solutions like city planning that considers children's needs and wishes, all the way from playgrounds for children to supporting governments to operationalize national resilience policies, both in cities and in schools. “Measures likes this might not stop the growth of informal settlements but should ensure they are built from the perspective that they should be safer and more pleasant environments for people to live in,” Brans says.
Empowering children to become agents of change
C&A Foundation and Save the Children collaborate on two major programs since 2015. Together, they provide fast and life-saving aid to children and families after a disaster and they work on increasing the resilience of the most marginalized children, both at a global and a local level for implementation in Bangladesh, India, China and Mexico. In the entire partnership and programmes, what is important for both organisations is to empower the children involved and become active agents of change within their communities.
Bellini describes a visit to a slum in Dhaka where she met a group of adolescent boys and girls trained in disaster risk reduction skills by the organisation’s programme staff: “What impressed us was their confidence. They felt empowered. They told us that they had addressed the municipal authorities asking for concrete changes. They actually managed to have them agree on building a playground in the slum.”
Following a visit to a Learning centre in the Rohingya Refugee camps: “The children can teach their parents and they can raise awareness. That is what we want to achieve through our programmes. That children become protagonists and not just passive beneficiaries who receive support” she adds.
Coincidentally, Save the Children shares the anniversary sentiment with C&A Foundation as it celebrates its centenary this year.
When asked how they plan to carry this 100-year legacy into the future, Brans says: “At Save the Children, we are incredibly ambitious. By 2030, no child under the age of five should die from preventable causes or diseases. Every child should benefit from high quality primary education and all children should be protected from violence.”
For the fashion industry, this would require businesses to include the child rights perspective in their everyday business activities. “Business have various direct and indirect impacts on children and their rights. We have to make sure that these impacts are exclusively of positive nature rather than negative. The fashion industry can do much to not only do no harm to children but also support their rights simply by doing their everyday business slightly differently,” Bellini concludes.