Overview of the Situation of Children
Children (0-18) comprise 35% (± 11 million) of the Moroccan population, and 3 million of them are under 5.1 The country has made vast improvements in reducing child and infant mortality rates: between1990 and 2009, under-5 mortality rate decreased from 89 ‰ to 38% 1. Net primary school enrolment rates have been increasing rapidly – reaching 87% for girls and 92% for boys in 2009. However, net secondary school rates are still extremely low: 37% for boys and 32% for girls1. Quality is also an issue as evidenced by poor retention rates: 25% of school children drop out before the fifth grade, and only 10% make it to 11th grade 2. Respect for the views of the child remains limited owing to traditional societal attitudes towards children on the part of schools, courts, administrative bodies and, especially, the family3 . A large number of children are vulnerable, especially children born out of wedlock and children with disabilities. In recent years, however, various social reforms implemented by the government and with strong support from civil society have created new spheres of expression for children.
Harmful traditional practices
The children are especially affected by the custom of early marriage. Although reforms to the family law (2004) have raised the minimum age of marriage for women from 15 to 18, judges are still allowed to authorize marriages before that age, including girls as young as 13 4. Thus, the number of child marriages is increasing: between 2009 and 2010, it increased by 3,000, with a total of 33,253 early marriages recorded 5.
Children without appropriate care and children on the move
More than 70,000 children live in institutions of national mutual assistance: about 22% of them are presented as social cases (divorce, imprisonment or mental disorder of one or both parents ...) and 66% are allowed there simply because of poverty. These institutions are controlled only at the financial level, and more and more children are victims of violence and abuse in these institutions. Several NGOs have undertaken actions to protect these children. For instance, the Moroccan League for the protection of childhood runs six centers for abandoned children under 3 and one center for those who exceed this age 6
Emergency situations and children: (children affected by armed conflict and natural disasters)
Morocco is vulnerable to natural disasters, having suffered through 32 events during the period 1980-2010, affecting on average 17,000 persons per year 7. The UNDP is supporting the government to prepare a National Strategy for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness, and the Ministry of Environment to set up flood and drought warning systems in the Oases regions 8 . Further research is needed on the extent to which child-specific vulnerabilities and child participation mechanisms are being integrated into national planning.
Although forced child labour is prohibited 9, it remains a critical challenge as it concerns 9% of children aged 5 to 14 years10 . Girls as young as 6 or 7 years old from rural communities are recruited to work as child maids in cities, and often experience conditions of forced labour, such as non-payment of wages, threats, and physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, while boys experience forced labour as apprentices in the artisan and construction industries and in mechanic shops11.
Teachers and parents believing children should fear them to work and behave better, “violence is often socially-accepted and approved”12 . 61% of children report they have been beaten by their parents at least once. Even in school, where corporal punishment is not permitted, it is still widely practiced: 87% of children say they have been beaten at least once at school.13
Save the Children and Bayti (a local partner) involved children from Morocco in reviewing the progress of the country in relation to the Millennium development goals. Children used the internet, key informant interviews and Animation techniques to understand the situation and to raise their recommendations.
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