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There are three main types of non-governmental organizations geared towards children: those dedicated to child welfare, including labor practices, those related to education, and those concerned with the provision of adequate food and nutrition. Within these broad types exist many much more specific focuses. Some groups target child slavery, for instance, while others seek to obliterate the practice of child soldiering; others are gender-specific, or focused only on certain countries or areas of the world. In order to be considered a non-governmental organization “for children,” the majority of a group's funding and resources must go to some specific child-centered concern. What exactly that concern is is largely up to the individual organization.
A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any sort of entity that is not directly affiliated with a government. NGOs for children tend to be not-for-profit independent organizations that exist primarily to promote the interests of young people around the world. Child-centered organizations of this sort operate in nearly every country. Some are locally-focused, while others are international. The work each does varies widely, but most can be categorized either as welfare, education, or nutrition-driven.
Child welfare NGOs are potentially the most wide-reaching. Social organizations in this category tackle a range of issues, from the overall living conditions of children generally to more discreet issues of forced labor, sexual exploitation, or systemic violence against children. Groups that target culturally-approved gender selection and discrimination also come within this category.
NGOs for children that focus on education usually seek to help local communities establish schools as well as structuring incentives for children to attend. This usually starts with providing basic resources like teachers and supplies. Long-term success usually requires much more than just the basics, though. Groups must usually commit to studying cultural barriers and stigmas associated with school attendance in order to understand why some parents resist education for their children or to understand why bright students simply stop coming. These kinds of NGOs for children are usually operated as long-term, semi-permanent fixtures in struggling communities.
Groups dedicated to hunger prevention usually have more flexibility. Some of these groups are focused primarily on disaster relief, namely, providing food to children who are victims of famine, flood, or earthquake. When food becomes scarce, children are often vulnerable to starvation. NGOs with this mission usually set up emergency aid in affected communities and ensure that children receive the nutrients they need to survive.
Food-related NGOs for children may also seek to establish sustainable farming practices or crop-growing initiatives. Volunteers or NGO staff members often spend time with families teaching them how to raise their own food. Children are usually given specific tasks so that they will feel a sense of ownership and pride in a family’s ability to provide for itself.
Many NGOs for children are focused on developing countries, but not all are. Children suffer in all parts of the world, regardless of their relative economic status. NGOs for children in industrialized countries often focus on after-school care, violence in the home, and the nutritive content of subsidized school lunches. Civil society organizations often work in inner cities to help children affected by drugs and violence get back on their feet, get back to school, and find more stable surroundings.