Who cares about street children? You should!
(By; Julius P. Kessy)
The street is not a place for any child to call home. In my primary school life I played to “AGAPE” a street children football club in Dodoma the capital of Tanzania. This was 11 years ago, many children dreamt of being super heroes to save those in need and make incredible difference. As I today write on the 6th International Day for Street Children (IDSC) the name “Street children” itself, Swahili word “Watoto wa mitaani” or “Chokoraa” in Kenya tends to give umbrage to them. I therefore ask you to pay apt attention to “IDENTITY”, this year’s theme. How do the homeless children speak of themselves paints a picture of the lives they wish. Also, public’s perception of, and reaction to, street children is a very important aspect of their lives in terms of the impediments they face once attempting to defend legal documents like birth certificates or ID cards so that their rights for instance education and health care or following harassment by the police cannot be ignored. I personally support the aurgument that; no treatment program designed for street children can succeed unless the community is prepared to respect, protect, and provide opportunities to them. This should start right at the basic stage as a growing number of parents donot fulfill their roles of rearing and taking care of their children. In Dar es salaam where I currently reside, these children are busy loitering in the city streets, committing juvenile crimes, stealing, smoking marijuana, drinking and bogging. At night, they always sleep in abandoned houses, while others hide in derelict vehicles at the bus stands, railway stations, under street calverts or bridges and in markets, searching for morning on empty stomachs to hunt on scraps of food leftovers. As the problem becomes rampant, girls in particular find their way to work as domestic servants or in guest houses and brothels where they are frequent victims of physical, sexual and psychological abuse which can have devastating consequences on their health. It is spotted that financial and social hurdles like poverty and broken homes contribute significantly to the problem but in my opinion the family whether rich or poor is the school to effect the direction which a particular child will take. I thus appeal for parents to adhere to the marriage ethics to avoid estrangement which add much to the scary number of street children. But, if we “the civil society” open our ears to amplify the voice of millions of street children all-out the world then these children are the future and as too often International Days like these fail to capture a collective call to action, I think the policy makers, activists, community leaders, service providers and even former street children should take it as a solely opportunity to be the real agents of change, to send a number of messages to governments, the United Nations and the donor community that this extremely vulnerable group of children needs to be at the foreground of their policy priorities and programming. I then argue you all to add your voice in demanding an official UN Day for street children like World AIDS Day or World Water Day. By doing so, vital pressure will be needed on governments around the world to support and recognise street children. This means street children will finally obtain the assist, attention and the identity they deserve. At African Youth Union, AYU; The International Day for Street Children coincides with “Mentor the African Child” a program dedicated to provide youth with the foundational skills necessary for future success within their careers. The objective of the program is to develop a community of prospective African future entrepreneurs and leaders who will have full understanding of themselves and Africa. Mentor the Young African program will inspire, motivate and enlighten African next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. No wonder these won’t be new faces but the familiar “Street Children” if we are too keen.