It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. -Frederick Douglass

The Gospel Legend Yolanda Adams has a song called ‘What About the Children’ that always gives me goose bumps.

I heard her melodious voice rolling around in my head as I read two articles in the news this week.

The New York Times featured a piece about how  children in Niger are missing school because they have to travel further and further to gather water for their families

The Washington Post ran an interesting article about a girl experiencing gender incongruence at an early age and the parent’s decisions about how to respond. 

These heart wrenching stories seem worlds apart, but they both show how our foundational human needs are as much about survival, as they are about growth, relationships and opportunities to self-actualize. In short, they highlight the importance of human security.  

Human security, puts the needs of individual people at the center of security discourse, and accounts for issues like socio-economic and political conditions, food, health, and environmental, community and personal safety. 

It is a sharp contrast to the traditional focus on state security. This approach assumed that a secure state would protect the interests of the people living within its bounders, which history has proven to be patently untrue. 

The basic question that these articles and the human security framework raise is what are the societal and life circumstances that might prevent this child from living a fulfilling, healthy and productive life?  

And what is the opportunity cost for the individual and society?

As a child, I often imagined myself as the next Miss America. I practiced my genteel wave and sashaying in high heels.  Even as an adult, I’ve reveled in wearing sashes and am known for busting out a tiara on my birthday and other occasions.

My dream changed. It wasn’t shattered.

I have a sense of ownership about how my life has progressed. 

This sort of tangential self-determination is the link between human security and state security.

If I had to make a flow chart it would go like this: Broken dreams, break people and broken people, breakdown societies.

So the urgent question becomes, what more can we do to build strong children?