International Day for Street Children 2018
Each year, International Day for Street Children recognises the progress to be made in reaching equality for street-connected children by elevating their voices in achieving their necessary rights.
This year, along with other members of Consortium for Street Children, we encouraged governments to implement four key steps:
- Commit to equality
- Protect every child
- Provide access to services
- Create new solutions
We strongly believe in this possibility by acknowledging the individual attributes of each child we work with.
Across Uganda and Ethiopia, we held in-depth focus groups with some of the street-connected children in attaining equality, asking them three questions to gather their unique responses:
- as a street-connected child, do you think your rights are recognised?
- what would you like to tell those in government to make your opinion heard and to feel valued?
- how can your opinions be included in decisions made by government?
The children were passionate in receiving this platform to make a difference, engaging in a heated discussion at times. By sharing their direct messages in the days leading to the big occasion, we wish to ensure the voices of children are not lost in future decisions that concern them. We anticipate that all governments worldwide will pledge for equality in the rights of street-connected children.
Take a look at some of the children’s responses on our Twitter Moment here.
Events across Africa
On the day, we also celebrated with government and non-government organisations in making equality happen.
At the Canaan Lighthouse we welcomed guests and members of the community to hear from the children. Nerves and excitement were shared among the children waiting to stand before the crowd, as this was their opportunity to demonstrate that they are more than just ‘street children’.
The day began with Dereje, Programmes Manager, who thanked those for attending and explained the importance of centre-based programmes for children.
Dereje welcomed onstage a 12-year old boy who had not stepped inside a school until joining Retrak. With undeniable confidence and a clear voice, he read a moving letter to the crowd, saying: “There is no garden as beautiful as Childhood.”
The next child presented another letter written for the community: “We are children, and there is a reason why we are on the streets. When you give us love and care, we will be better people. When you dislike us and avoid us, we get upset, feel lost and hate the world. When you give us attention and care, we will make a better world.”
It was a truly emotional morning, with bowed heads hiding tearful eyes.
To raise everyone’s spirits, children sang their respective cultural songs, joined by some of the guests to dance. Canaan Lighthouse had transformed from a place of gloom into one of joy and excitement.
Lastly, a child resilience programme involved children drawing a picture of the area surrounding the Lighthouse, marking areas in red where threats like gangs or dangerous dogs in dark alleys laid. One by one, the guests, including two police officers, stood up and promised to look out for these threats and protect the children from harm.
As the day came to a close, the, children looked happy and proud. They knew that they had impressed the community and will be respected even more, rather than seen as mere children of the street.
The day not only remains a resonance lingering in everybody’s minds, but proves that attempts to reach equality for street-connected children are becoming even more successful.
This year’s celebrations began with a two-kilometre procession through Katwe, a suburb of Kampala with heavy traffic controlled well by the police. Hundreds of street-connected children, social workers, and well-wishers sang and danced to the band music of our partner, Brass for Africa.
Many representatives of government and parliament joined the commemoration too. Kampala Capital City Authority were so overwhelmed by the hundreds of children present on the day that they acknowledged the need to allocate more resources in preventing children from relying on the streets.
The children were also given the opportunity to open up about how they are intentionally beaten by the police, despite committing no offence, and arrested when sleeping rough. This fear of the police has made the children feel even more helpless and insecure. The senior superintendent listened and recognised this systematic, unfair treatment. She then promised to construct better relationships with her team in protecting rather than harming the children.
While the children received haircuts and health checks and competed in drama presentations and outdoor games, the day climaxed with social workers across various organisations serving the children lunch.
We envisage a future where April 12th is dedicated to celebrating the work that has been achieved, rather than what is to come in attaining equality for street-connected children. This goal requires relentless cooperation worldwide, as well as the continued support of people like you.
By Diana Clough