World's largest aid organisation founded by a woman celebrates 90th anniversary

from Save the Children
Published on 19 May 2009 View Original
Save the Children hails progress on children's rights but warns of challenges ahead.

(May 19, 2009) - Save the Children, founder of children's rights, today celebrates 90 years of work achieving change for children around the world. In 2009, the aid organisation faces challenges of conflict and economic crisis similar to its beginnings in the aftermath of the First World War.

Today in Ethiopia 4 out of 10 children suffer from hunger. In 1919 when Save the Children began its work helping starving children in Eastern Europe, in Vienna 9 out of 10 children suffered from hunger - unheard of today. Today nearly 10% of children worldwide cannot go to school, compared with more than 40% of children out of school in some parts of the United States when Save the Children began its work there during the Great Depression.

"It's a tough start for children born in the poorest parts of the world today. As the global recession worsens, their families will be hit hardest and the governments in their countries will struggle to provide even the basics such as health care and schools. The global food crisis has already left 50 million children suffering malnutrition," said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Secretary General of the International Save the Children Alliance.

"Our founder Eglantnye Jebb said, 'We can be sure that those whom we help today will help us tomorrow.' This is even truer now. To find the solutions to climate change, war and economic crisis we need children to grow up healthy, well educated and free from fear. The progress we have made for children inspires us to believe in the future. We have learned that out of the greatest disasters change is possible - but we urgently need more support to help today's generation of children."

Save the Children's story is the success story of an ambitious, visionary woman, Eglantyne Jebb. Today, the organisation she founded has grown into an international alliance of 27 member organisations working in 125 countries. With a combined income of nearly $1.3 billion, it is larger than any other aid organisation started by a woman. "We believe that even among private companies, there are only two organisations founded by women that are larger than Save the Children - US cosmetics giant Mary Kay and Chinese company Nine Dragons Paper," added Petri Gornitzka.

Eglantyne Jebb promoted the idea, revolutionary for her time, that children had rights. In 1923 she wrote the Declaration on the Rights of the Child, subsequently adopted by the League of Nations. This historic document was the foundation for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty now written into law in nearly every country in the world.

"Our mission worldwide is to guarantee that the rights of every child are met - the right to health care, food, education, and to protection from all forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and cruelty. We make sure children have a voice and we involve children in finding real answers to the problems they face."

Immediately following World War I, during the organisation's first years, Save the Children campaigned against the embargo by the British Government to Germany and Austria where children were dying of hunger and disease. Save the Children gained a reputation as a reliable and effective relief organisation during the famine of 1921 in Russia, when the agency was able to feed 650,000 people, for the cost of one shilling per week per person.

Save the Children then moved on to programmes to tackle hunger and education in poor areas and rural areas of the United States in the years of the Great Depression, interventions in Scandinavia, Italy, Germany, Austria and Greece, to assist children and populations affected by World War II, including those who were in concentration camps. The agency's history involves responding to emergency posed by the Korean War, the global campaign against polio in 1979, the intervention to combat the famine in Ethiopia in 1984.

In more recent times, Save the Children has continued to work with children affected by war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Angola, Rwanda and the Balkans, promoting campaigns for the rights of child soldiers, responding to relief operations in tsunami-ravaged countries and helping displaced families in Darfur. In 2006 Save the Children launched Rewrite the Future, its first global campaign focused on securing quality education for the millions of children out of school due to war and armed conflict.