Daily support of children in street situations to access fundamental rights

Friday 27 November 2020

Celebrated every November 20th, Universal Children's Day is a unique opportunity to promote children's rights. Above all, it is an opportunity to transform these rights decreed by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) into concrete actions in favor of children! It is the opportunity to share the work that our local partners carry out on a daily basis with children in street situations. The Qosqo Maki association, our partner in Peru, and Caritas Ségou in Mali, share their experiences of life for street connected children, the challenges they face in realizing their fundamental rights and their social reintegration.


Youth in street situations - from Mali to Peru

The street is becoming the home of children in vulnerable situations for a variety of reasons. Poverty and intra-family violence are the most common reasons why young people have no choice but to leave home. Often, the street represents the only opportunity for refuge and survival for these disadvantaged youth. This is particularly the case for children known as "talibés" in Mali. As Abbot Robert DIARRA, Coordinator of Caritas Ségou, explains, these children are entrusted by their families (often poor) to teachers to receive religious instruction. While the training includes accommodation, the children must provide their own meals as well as those of their teachers. Thus, these children are sent to the street, begging to collect money.

In Peru, Qosqo Maki mainly welcomes young teenagers looking for financial independence and a job. According to Apolline De Lavarde, the association’s the coordinator, "many young people are exposed and tempted by the vice of the century: internet, online video games. A large part of the young users of the dormitory get carried away and many spend their small incomes in internet stores". The young people are then caught in a vicious circle and the street is their only possible answer in terms of accommodation and work opportunities. In fact, in Peru, there is no vocational training for these young people who have not reached a high school level. It is a long term training that a large part of the young people gives up because of the level of discipline required and for economic reasons, not being able to reconcile work and their school career. Apolline De Lavarde believes that a vocational training with lower prerequisites and accessible to minors would be a key point to facilitate the reintegration of young people.


The street, a situation that deprives children of their rights

Thus, the street situation implies a deprivation in terms of fundamental rights, such as the right to education (art. 28). In Mali, "it is not the child alone who enrolls in school, but his or her parent, a guardian or the State who can enroll the child. But as long as they are in the street, nobody takes care of them and these children cannot go to school". Father Robert DIARRA deplores a double deprivation insofar as these children are no longer with their families, they are not only deprived of a school education but also of a family education.

The lack of access to education exposes the children to the risks of exploitation. Indeed, Qosqo Maki often hosts young people who are employed and are victims of abuse and exploitation by their employers. This situation is reinforced by the lack of qualification of the young people, deprived of their right to be protected against any form of economic exploitation (art. 23).


Comprehensive support: from fundamental rights to socio-professional integration

Although the CRC obliges signatory states to ensure the protection of children, in many countries, it is still too often the associations that are responsible for supporting street connected children and enabling them to access their fundamental rights. In Mali, our partner carries out reception and orientation work up to the educational support of the young people. In order to get in touch with the children, Caritas Ségou organizes "street tours", day and night. When it is impossible to return to the family, our partners offer accommodation to the young people where their essential needs are taken care of. Above all, it is a question of ensuring access to fundamental rights by allowing access to health (art. 3, art. 24), to meals (art. 27) and to ensure the safety of the children (art. 2, art. 32).

Secondly, Caritas Ségou offers psychosocial support and educational follow-up in the home and ensures that the children are enrolled in school or in vocational training. As for the Qosqo Maki, the association organizes training workshops in bakery and carpentry to enable young people to acquire the skills and know-how necessary for their professional integration.

Apolline de Lavarde explains the importance of including young people in the management of the shelter in order to value their voice, encourage their personal development and “develop a critical mind that will allow them to identify when their rights are violated”. Through workshops and activities open to both the youth and adults in the neighborhood, Qosqo Maki participates in the de-stigmatization of street connected youth and in the creation of social bonds, while at the same time raising public awareness of children's rights.


Access to vocational training and rights awareness is central to protecting street youth from rights abuses and ensuring successful socio-economic reintegration.

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