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March 21st is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; observed initially by the UN General Assembly in 1966. This date commemorates the struggles and successes of movements around the world to eliminate racial discrimination and brings issues such as exclusion, segregation, inequality, poverty and discrimination to the spotlight.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is bringing governments' attention the importance of increasing efforts to eliminate racial discrimination through the implementation of the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

The effects of discrimination around the world
The historical legacy of racial discrimination lingers and is often reflected in immigration law and state policies and practices. As a result, many children around the world are not able to access to education, health, or basic services on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic origin.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Afro-Brazilians are "amongst the most vulnerable to discrimination" in Brazil. Recent UNDP reports (UNDP, 2005-2010) suggest that racial discrimination is a contributing factor for poverty, inequalities and violence amongst Afro-Brazilians. This means that Afro-Brazilians have the lowest indicators in health, education and income. The vast majority of Afro-Brazilian children live in favelas (shanty towns) where there is a strong presence of organised drug, crime and prostitution rings.

To effectively challenge racial discrimination, changes in legislation alone are not enough. There has to be active support and involvement of communities addressing discrimination, using their own approaches and ideas. This means that eliminating racial discrimination also requires an integrated approach that includes awareness raising, implementation of affirmative action and diverse measures that will ensure historically discriminated groups have the same opportunities as dominant ones.

Reaching marginalised children in Brazil
ChildHope works to realise the rights of marginalised children and young people who face poverty, inequality and violence around the world. In Brazil we are currently working with partners Promundo and Projeto Legal to combat and prevent the sexual exploitation of the most marginalised children and young people (aged 12-29) in Rio de Janeiro. Given that structural socio-economic inequality and discrimination also contribute to sexual exploitation, many of the children and young people we work with are of African descent and live in favelas.

Through this programme children and young people suffering from sexual exploitation have voiced their opinions and they are actively involved in the implementation of this programme. Our partners hold workshops and focus groups with young people to improve their access to information and participation in culture, community and family life to help them escape situations of sexual exploitation. This integrated approach facilitates the better implementation of strategies to protect vulnerable children and young people from sexual exploitation.

Towards an integrated approach to discrimination
This same integrated approach should be used to combat discrimination. Children are more vulnerable to violations of their human rights as a consequence of discriminatory policies and practices. A better integrated approach will allow communities, children, young people and decision-makers to actively discuss better approaches to combat discrimination. We know that it is not by chance that discrimination contributes to poverty, which in turn contributes to leaving children more vulnerable to human rights abuses. This is why when celebrating 21st March we must not only think of eliminating racial discrimination, but of many other violations that children have to endure every day as a result of discrimination.

Read more about our work in Brazil

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