Monday, April 30, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Youth around the world face multiple vulnerabilities. Their lives are often shaped by economic, political and cultural contexts unique to their country of origin. However, according to a 2007 State of the World’s Street Children report, street children’s experiences are still strikingly similar, including those in wealthy nations with child protection systems. These kids' lives are often plagued by the dangers and imminent risks that come hand in hand with life on the streets. The report further recognizes that violence is a core theme underpinning children’s presence on the streets, where they experience traumatizing and marginalizing events such as abuse, exploitation, abject poverty, erratic and exclusionary access to educational and health services, and general stigmatization by mainstream society.[i]
As is the case with other disadvantaged populations, sound statistics are difficult to
find. According to the 2012 State of the World’s Children report, estimates suggest that tens of millions of children live or work on the streets of the world’s towns and cities – and the number is rising with global population growth, migration and increasing urbanization. [ii] However, this number is up for debate.
Several countries have their own statistics. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, there are estimates of 10,000 to 20,000 street working children. In Ethiopia, the government estimates that 150,000 children live on the streets, with around 60,000 in Addis Ababa alone. And 1 million children are believed to be on the streets of Egypt, most in Cairo and Alexandria. [iii]
In Nicaragua, the situation is equally grim. According to a survey of 300 street children conducted by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Family, over 80% had engaged in prostitution to survive.[iv] Others were caught in a spiral of violence, and often addicted to drugs such as glue to curb hunger. I saw this firsthand in Managua when I shadowed a local street outreach team as they talked to afflicted youth and attempted to form vital support networks.
Events for this April 12th seem largely symbolic - agencies like the Hope Foundation are releasing balloons with messages for street children - but there are other ways to take action too. CSC is asking people to sign their pledge so they can affect change on the policy level via a meeting with the UN in June. You can sign the pledge here: http://www.streetchildrenday.org/take-action/#addyourvoice. And, if you are of the volunteering ilk, nonprofits dedicated to street children continue to need help. At IOFA, we are dedicated to improving the lives of young people worldwide. So speak up, take action and help us champion the rights of youth across the globe!
-Summar Ghias, Program Development Intern
[i] Thomas de Benitez, S.(2007). State of the World’s Street Children: Violence, Consortium for Street Children Retrieved from http:// www.streetchildren.org.uk
[ii] The State of the World’s Children (2012). Children in
an Urban World. UNICEF. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/sowc2012/pdfs/SOWC%202012-Main%20Report_EN_13Mar2012.pdf
[iii] Consortium for Street Children: Statistics.(2009) Retrieved from http://www.streetchildren.org.uk/_uploads/resources/Street_Children_Stats_FINAL.pdf
[iv] Street Children in Nicaragua. Casa Alianza. Retrieved from http://www.casa-alianza.org.uk/northsouth/CasaWeb.nsf/3/Nicaragua_Detail?OpenDocument
Friday, April 6, 2012
Human Rights Watch recently released a harrowing report about the imprisonment of Afghan women and girls for “moral crimes.” These moral crimes are primarily the crimes of “running away” and “zina” (sex outside of marriage). In many cases, the women who have run away are fleeing forced marriages or abusive homes, or the sex outside of marriage was the result of rape or sexual abuse. Regardless of the circumstances, these women and girls face prison time and retaliation from their families and communities for having committed these “moral crimes.” While the women are clearly victims of crime, the justice system treats them as perpetrators.
After reading HRW’s report, it would be far too easy to believe that such an upside down approach to treating victims of crime “doesn’t happen here.” But if we look at trafficked and exploited youth in America, we would see that 46 states of our 50 states persist in arresting and imprisoning youth in the sex trade. (Illinois, by contrast, has enacted the Illinois Safe Children Act, that protects youth in the sex trade from detention and prosecution.) Runaway and homeless youth across the country, who are often fleeing abusive homes or maltreatment, are often drawn into the sex trade to meet basic survival needs. Many of those have been turned out by their families for their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. These young people, despite the fact that they are often victims of crime, abuse, and systemic discrimination, are subject to criminal laws that punish them for engaging in prostitution, skipping school, violating curfews, and other crimes that, like Afghanistan’s running away and zina, are clearly our version of “moral crimes.”
Our treatment of runaway and homeless youth in the sex trade and the treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan are clearly two points on the same spectrum of deficient, exclusively criminal justice oriented responses, which simply cannot address the root causes of complex social problems. Pieces of legislation like the Illinois Safe Children Act are important first steps in reframing our response, but we must continue to insist that victims of exploitation receive the support they need and deserve, before they become victims again of an ineffective system.