Global Challenges and Opportunities Facing Children, Youth and Families

Tahmina Akhter Sadia started working in a Bangladesh garment factory at just 11 years of age. She didn’t want to go to work the morning of April 24, 2013, fearing that the growing cracks in the factory walls would soon cause a collapse, according to her interview with CBS News. Unfortunately, her fears became reality on that day. The walls gave way, trapping Tahmina for hours and killing more than 1,000 of her co-workers.

The disaster at the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh has focused much needed attention on the desperate working and living conditions many around the world are forced to accept. It begs us to consider and address the full consequences of globalization and global inequalities. Distant communities are more connected to one another than ever before due to technological developments. We can communicate, share knowledge and work together to solve crises. Globalization truly allows us to speak of a global society.

But with this advancement comes great responsibility. Workers at the Ran Plaza were stitching clothes for markets in the West, earning around $60 a month. This is not globalization. It is subordination. Indeed, the average income in the world’s wealthiest regions was three times greater than the average income in the poorest regions 200 years ago, nine times greater 100 years ago and 20 times greater in 1998. As a result of this widening inequality gap:

  • An estimated 780 million people in the world lack access to clean water and 3.4 million people–nearly all of them in the developing world–die annually from water related disease.
  • Despite progress in treatment, HIV/AIDS disproportionally impacts poorer communities and countries. Of the 3.34 million children living with HIV, most (about 97 percent) live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
  • Children of mothers with no education in developing nations are more than twice as likely as children of secondary-educated mothers to die before their 5th birthdays.

Global security is enhanced when members of global society work together to meet these basic needs for all people, which is why in the year 2000, 189 world leaders came together to sign the Millennium Declaration–a commitment to work together to build a safer, more prosperous, and equitable world. This truth continues to show itself to me as I travel throughout the world, to countries such as Ghana and Singapore in advancement of Wheelock College’s mission to improve the lives of children and families.

It is with this premise that Wheelock College will mark its 125th Anniversary by hosting an inaugural conference from June 19th to 22nd called “Global Challenges and Opportunities Facing Children, Youth and Families.”

The conference will bring 160 speakers on over 30 panels, such as keynote speaker Cherie Blair, Esq., founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, to discuss the impact of globalization and its intersection with education, health, and human rights, especially in developing countries and with under-served and diverse populations. Conference participants will engage with others compelled to take action and gain an understanding of the practices and policies with the greatest impact on children, youth, and families.

On behalf of Wheelock College, I invite anyone committed to improving conditions for children and families like those in Bangladesh to take action by attending our global conference. Further information can be found at