Street Children: Does Not Hurt to Care

Artistic illustration by Mike Mungai (Bwana Mdogo Arts),    Story by Sammy Mwangi.  Other stories on the same occassion here

12th April 2012 marked the International Day of Street Children. This is a day set purposely to listen to an important constituent of the world citizens. It is a day when millions of youth and children around the world living in the streets are raising their voices requesting to be heard, listened and noticed. The voices of these youth and children is so compelling despite serious deprivation, poverty, family violence and disfuctionality, neglect, lack of education amongst many other challenges. Street children in many ways pass through to adulthood without having enjoyed their childhood even for a moment.

During this Day, Maisha Poa a Dagorretti based rehabilitation organization in collaboration with Consolation East Africa and the members of the  Kenya Blue Hearts Grassroots Initiative amongst other organizations  organized events that exposed the plight of street children in Kenya. The event was attended by members of the public, NGOs, FBOs, policy makers and the street youth and children themselves. It was a day when there was a great communion amongst the street people and the other members of the society.There was great entertainment too from the children and other artistic groups in the society. At the end of the day, the community did make some great reflections about the plight of these children. At least something positive has started taking place.

Our African culture, our faiths and laws  lay strong foundations for protecting our children. The 1st and 2nd Millenium development goals are important in the lives of street children, as for the talk on eradication of poverty and hunger and achievement of free basic education are the key things. The government, local administration, faith based organizations, charitable organizations and other organizations that have transformed many street children into responsible citizens through rescue, rehabilitation, education and reintegration in the societies/ families. This is in fulfillment of a greater purpose of caring for orphans, vulnerable and homeless children.

However the challenge is still big. It is believed that at least each day, there is a new child joining the streets. According to various studies estimates the number of street children inKenyahas been  approximated to be between 200,000 to 300,000 whereby about 60,000 to 70,000 of these children were in Nairobi. In 2007 the number was still constant at 300,000 but the number of children had reduced to 60,000.  A research conducted in 2009 by UN  revealed that the number of street children had increased nationally to 700,000. The problem has increased due to factors such as domestic violence, separation, divorce, HIV/AIDS deaths leaving children as orphans and children suffering.

Images of street children are common place in Dagoretti constituency, that’s from Kenyatta Market  to Dagoretti Market, from Gatina to Kabiria. It is ironical that in environment of free primary education era, hundreds of these children continue to suffer.

The Dagoretti Action against Gender Based Violence (GAABV) has been bringing stakeholders together and trying to advocate for the rights of these children. Hence more needs to be done in order to assist children who are abused at home or in the institutions either emotionally, physically, psychologically and sexually. If these abuses are not addressed, these children will certainly find a ‘difficult solace in the streets. It therefore suffices to say that most of the children in the streets have suffered some form of violence at home or in other institutions that were supposed to provide care and support to them.

There is hence a need for bigger collaboration. All actors working with the children need to come together to protect children and youths whose lives are destroyed by drugs, other forms of addictions, violence and exploitation. Drugs are surest way to introduce them to crime. On the issue of crime many street youths have met their early deaths by being involved in crime. The children have also been meted great violence by either the public or the law enforcement agencies.  A great concern therefore emerges to educate both the public and the law enforcers to use on non-violent ways of handling street children. Treating these children badly has the effect of later on turning them into rogue criminals. Infact, since these children need attention like any other, small acts of love may help them a lot to heal some of their past and their daily on going emotional wounds and traumas.

Constituency development funds, Nairobi City Council, Ministry of Youth and Sports, the police department, Ministry of Gender and Children, religious institutions and the community  can work together to rescue children living in the streets. Many of them have dropped out of school or have finished primary schools and have few life  options. As stated in the Vision 2030, not empowering the youths is a recipe for crime and violence. Dagoretti community has the capacity to help every vulnerable child. Both private and public schools need to open their doors unconditionally for street and out of school children to receive education. Great initiatives such as the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund (SFRTF), Constituency Bursary Fund or Secondary Education and other types of initiatives are certainly moves in the right direction towards reducing the vulnerability of these children.

Street children and youth have the right to health like other children and youth, right to belong to a family, right to develop their dreams and talents, to have life skills. These children and youth have many talents. Most of them are talented acrobats, sportsmen, musicians, photographers and if nurtured they could be skilled and become competent doctors, engineers, teachers, policemen and leaders who can contribute to the growth of our country.

With strong networks and greater collaboration “Louder Together” we can achieve the dream of having ZERO children forced to live in the streets of Kawangware, Dagoretti and inKenyaat large therefore RESTORING HOPE to many.

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