‘Street Children’ are children who, due to an array of socioeconomic reasons, have found themselves living on the streets of a town or city. Street children are a global phenomenon yet as a group they are significantly marginalized by the Development sector and often in local social development policies. In many areas they are actually victimized by local police and municipalities who fear the image of social breakdown that their presence evokes. This happens particularly around times where cities host international conferences and sports events where there will be international visitors. (see our advocacy campaigns).
Some street children live on the streets during the day, often begging or working, and return home at night, others have become more significantly detached or completely detached from their original home and family and literally live on streets full-time. Some street children are also considered “working children” etching out a living through various different means in the streets.
Children living on the streets often survive by working or begging, and sometimes through the support of NGO’s but can often get caught up in prostitution and crime.
Street Action partners with pioneering local agencies which work, predominantly, with street children who are fully immersed in street life. These children are often treated as the rubbish of society and seen as no-hopers.
All street children are, to varying degrees, traumatised. Often this is from the experiences that led them to the streets then compounded by their experiences of living on the streets. Street children are at risk from rape and other sexual abuse as well as sexual exploitation and live at live great risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Hunger, violence and disease are ever present. Substance abuse, in particular sniffing glue, is prevalent and used as a way to escape the fear, hunger-pangs and indignity of life in the streets. Many street children lose their lives on the streets from disease, violence, being hit by cars, or from police brutality, sometimes in the form of death squads.
The street child scenario can be complicated and understanding the realities of the street child experience from the perspective of street children is crucial to developing appropriate and sustainable interventions that cover their broad range of experiences. Central to any street child intervention needs to be a strong psychosocial component to address the trauma left by these experiences. Sustainable interventions require a journey of emotional healing as the traumas can continue to cause major problems as the children become adults, even if off the streets.
Meaningful Inclusion of Former Street Children
One of the distinctive and pioneering aspects of our partners work in both Burundi and South Africa is that they are organisations that have former street children playing a meaningful role in the development and enactment of programmes, strategies and even local policies. New Generation and Umthombo Street Children were both founded by former street children.
Former street children, if afforded quality psychosocial support and trained, can be a very valuable resource in strategy development as well as a great encouragement as role models to current street children. The fusion of social working professionals and trained former street children is a concept pioneered by some of our partners.
With the right policies and strategies, there is really is no need for there to be any child living on the streets. Street Action is committed to being part of bringing this change. To bringing about a world where no child finds themselves living on the streets.