Carolyn Miles, CEO and president of Save the Children, spoke on her organization’s efforts to protect children’s rights in many countries of the world at the Stanford Program on Human Rights’ Winter Speaker Series U.S Human Rights NGOs and International Human Rights on February 11, 2015.
Throughout her talk, Miles addressed the Stanford audience about the importance of protecting the basic needs of children, proclaiming the Save the Children mission: Every child deserves a childhood. She spoke about the urgent needs of child refugees in Syria, the organization’s biggest and most challenging hurdle at present. The audience grew still when Miles played a Save the Children commercial capturing a Syrian child’s experience in one year of her life during the wake of the crisis. Miles raised other important issues, such as the critical importance of developing longer-term strategies that support children in the aftershock of crises, which often can be more damaging than the initial crisis itself. For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when thousands of children were displaced, organizations such as the Red Cross had no plan in place for caring for children in shelters beyond a short period of time. Save the Children trained Red Cross workers in preparedness techniques and strategies for emergency aftermath.
Helen Stacy, director of the Program on Human Rights and moderator of the event, questioned Miles on the organization’s strategy for accessing marginalized communities; prioritizing children that are forgotten or ignored; and the concern of overeducating and preparing children in countries with a depleted workforce. Miles believes that focusing on the hard-to-reach populations will close the gap between the majority and the minority, and that studies show that this is achievable when governments are made to feel accountable to their marginalized peoples when witnessed on an international level. In relation to unrealistically preparing children for the workforce, Miles stated that in the Middle East this may potentially be a problem, but that Save the Children endeavors to prepare students through matching their skillsets to jobs that are already available. When Stacy challenged Miles on the Western mindset that frames the Save the Children mission that “every child deserves a childhood," Miles agreed that it is a Western attitude but stood by her stance that she believes that all children under the age of eighteen are entitled to certain basic rights, regardless of non-Western cultural norms indicating otherwise. Questions from the audience included fundraising issues, learning from undesirable program evaluation results, dealing with diversity when designing projects and innovation in children’s rights.
Dana Phelps, Program Associate, Program on Human Rights