Focus on street-connected children in Antananarivo

Thursday 16 December 2021

In Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, there are an estimated 23,000 street-connected children, all categories combined (alone or with their family living on the street, during the day and/or at night). These children are particularly vulnerable and do not have access to their fundamental rights such as health care, education, food or security. Many associations work every day to support these children and to give a sustainable response to change this paradigm.

Through the project Sandratra, the FAAI is working alongside four Malagasy partners (Graines de bitume, HARDI, NRJ center and MANDA), who take care of around 1,000 children and young people in street situations in Antananarivo every year.

As part of this project, a socio-anthropological study was conducted to gain a better understanding of the situations these children live in, the emergencies to which it is necessary to respond, and the key levers for a significant and lasting improvement of their situation.

This study is based on a collection of testimonies from the field between June and August 2021 in the streets of Antananarivo. It gives us the main conclusions on the harsh reality that affects children in street situations. The main results of the study are now available online.

 

Children are victims of daily violence, and especially sexual violence

Among the children surveyed, 41% have already suffered from physical violence and for 23% of them, this abuse is frequent and repeated. Sexual assaults are common and 25% of children know someone who has been raped, mostly underage girls. Very few cases are reported to the police. If they are reported, there are no repercussions even when the identity of the perpetrator is known.

“I was born on the street and live on the street, my whole childhood was spent on the street. When I was sleeping in the street, I was raped. It happened to me when I was 14 years old. It was a thug who abused me. A thief I believe, he forced me, he raped me! He promised to marry me. But after the act, he ran away, and I never saw him again. So, I changed places to beg and sought help. People from the “gastro” (canteen) told me to stay here, where you found me. When that boy raped me, I had not yet started menstruating and I thought I would never have children” shares the young woman of 21 years, born in the street of a beggar mother.  

 

The primary needs of children are not satisfied, including having enough to eat or maintaining basic hygiene

Children mainly survive on small informal jobs (petty trading, carrying luggage, goods or water, washing, car park attendant). Cash inflows are unpredictable which directly impacts their ability to eat: “There are days when we don’t eat anything at all. When I don’t have money, I beg or search through the garbage to find something to eat”, explains a 13-year-old girl alone on the street, earning a living by washing and carrying water.

“Sometimes I can’t find enough to eat, which is my most common problem. I feel hungry and immediately faint. In that case, I search for food in the trash” says another 11-year-old beggar girl who lives with her parents.

 

Street-connected children are victims of stigmatisation, as a caste of sub-men or sub-women.  

Children in street situation are often being called “dirty”, “poor”, “lazy”, beggars, rude, thieves, “less than nothing”, girls are harassed and called prostitutes. In the face of these insults, they feel despised and “sad”. Being put down is the number one thing kids say they don't like about their lives.

“People think of us as dirty people, thieves. Yet I have never stolen anything from anyone. They demean us and insult us with bad words. We are all victims of these insults while living in the streets, me and the other children. People won’t come close to us because they say we’re dirty… and that we have a foul smell” shares a 16-years-old girl who has always lived on the street.

This study completes the existing data regarding the problems affecting children in street situations and their families in Madagascar and helps to improve the care of these children.

The project Sandratra aims to restore access to fundamental rights for these children. This study is fundamental to our work in accompanying our local partners in their advocacy actions  in favor of children’s rights.

Thus, this study will be used to develop an advocacy strategy for institutional actors. The objective of this approach is to reduce the phenomenon of children in street situations through public policies of prevention and care to help them get out of the streets. This advocacy work is done in close collaboration with the Platform of Society for Children (PFSCE) based in Madagascar.

 

* conducted by Amber Cripss

 

 

 

 

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