Protect and respect: a proud tradition of standing up for children’s rights



When a colleague casually suggested a visit to the Respected and Protected exhibition at the Central Family Courts, I hadn’t anticipated the effect it would have on me.

The photos and stories of forgotten children and the historical evolution of children’s rights have stayed with me. They’ve also brought out parallels with Save the Children’s work today to support forgotten and marginalised children around the world.

Through the displays of children’s clothing, artefacts and photographs, the exhibition brings to life the often harrowing histories of forgotten children.

Seeing the clothes worn by children in another age who were forced to work in dangerous conditions,  you can’t help but think of child labourers working in dangerous and exploitative situations today – and whose protection Save the Children is fighting for.

Save the Children and the UNCRC

This exhibition also prompted me to think about Save the Children’s proud history of fighting for children’s rights.

Almost a century ago, our founder, Eglantyne Jebb was appalled by the plight of children facing malnutrition as a result of the blockade in Europe after the
First World War. She campaigned to end the blockade. And she set up Save the Children, which has grown to become a global organisation reaching millions of disadvantaged children each year.

Eglantyne Jebb went on to write the world’s first declaration on children’s rights. This subsequently formed the basis for the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child UNCRC).

The UNCRC is a powerful legal framework made up of 42 articles which outline the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of children. States which have ratified the convention are legally bound to fulfil these rights.

UNCRC in action

The UNCRC came about through the innovation and dedication of Jebb and others who advocated and fought for this treaty. That legacy underlies Save the Children’s work today – for example, through our work to:

  • Protect children in war. In conflicts around the world, the places where children should be safe, such as schools and hospitals, are being targeted in horrific attacks. We’re asking governments to make sure that children caught in conflict are protected.
  • Advocate for the right to good-quality health care through driving progress on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) globally and nationally, prioritising primary healthcare for women, children and adolescents.
  • Ensure that children’s right to nutritious food, through pushing for sufficient funding for nutrition, better coordination and understanding of policies to tackle malnutrition, and increased accountability for action.
  • Promote Articles 28 and 29 of the UNCRC – on a child’s right to good-quality education – underlie our education advocacy work, which promotes children’s right to good-quality education and improved learning outcomes, with a particular focus on literacy.


This blog is the first in a series on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. The series will discuss how Save the Children fights for children’s rights across different areas of our work.

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