How about a game: Close your eyes and spin a globe. Now stop the rotation with putting your finger on any country — still with your eyes closed. (You could also use a world map on the computer). Now imagine what your life would be like if you were born in that country. Would you have a big family? What language would you be speaking? What foods would you eat? Would you go to school or work? Would you have a nice home with your own room and nice things to play with? Would you be able to go to college when you are older and find a decent job after you’ve graduated?
Your chances of leading a happy, healthy and successful life are very much determined by where you were born and where you grow up. Different countries have different cultures, as well as different opportunities for children to be strong, healthy, and well educated. Many countries in the world are extremely poor; they have few schools, not enough doctors, and a scarcity of food. They can’t provide safety for their citizens due to war or lawlessness. In many countries women don’t have the right to choose how they want to live their lives, or even to have a job. People with disabilities have an even harder life.
Inequality is the term to describe a situation in which people don’t have the same opportunities in life. Inequality means that if you were born in the “wrong” place in the world it is very hard or even impossible for you to become the grown-up you wish to become. Your disadvantages start the day you are born. Your body and brain can’t develop properly if you don’t have enough food. Chances are that you will have to work, you can’t go to school or you will drop out before high school. Even if you finish school, there might not be any jobs for you to make a living.
To compare: a child that is born into a family that has enough money and lives in a safe environment will have nutritious food, see doctors regularly, have books and toys, can go to school and college, will have the opportunity to participate in sports, learn a musical instrument, and travel. His or her chances of leading a happy life are significantly higher.
Inequality doesn’t only exist between countries, but also within the same country, even in the same city. If you were born on the wrong side of town in a low-income neighborhood, your chances of succeeding are less than those of a person growing up in wealthy neighborhood.
What do you think? When people born in a disadvantaged place in the world want to leave to seek a better life, will they have a chance to do so? Do you think they will be able to fulfill their potential?
What you can do
Give back to your community in ways that help those less privileged. Donate books to your local library; or food, clothing, and toys to local charities. Volunteer as a tutor or Big Brother or Big Sister to those in need. Do your part to support equal opportunities for all children.