On the 12th April, we celebrated the 6th International Day for Street Children. The Consortium for Street Children launched this day in 2011 to make the voices of street children around the world heard. Support for the day increases every year, and it is now celebrated in over 130 countries. Despite this, there is still a long way to go.
While our work at the International Children’s Trust is not limited to street children, many of our projects tackles the root causes of child poverty that have resulted (or will result) in children living or working on the streets. The scale of the problem means that our work continues to be important.
Just how many children worldwide live on the streets? 80 million? 100 million? 120 million? The reality is that there is no definite figure. While UNICEF estimates the number to be around 100 million, many of these children are not documented making the number too difficult to pinpoint. However, the precise number of street children is not the most problematic issue – we already know that the number is far too high.
A bigger problem is that many of these children struggle to form an identity for themselves. For example, many street children do not have a birth certificate or ID card, which often means that they cannot access essential services like education and healthcare. Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child (an international treaty that all states except for the USA have ratified) states that all children have the right to be registered immediately after birth, to have a legally registered name and nationality, and to be cared for by their parents, for many children this is not a reflection of their everyday life.
Beyond the problem of an ‘official’ identity for street children, living on the streets has an impact on a child’s ‘personal’ identity. While society will often consider these children to be a problem, delinquents, weak and destitute, the child will see themselves as brave, self-reliant, and helping their family.
For this reason, the Consortium for Children (of which the International Children’s Trust is a member) made ‘identity’ the theme of this year’s International Day for Street Children. We must remember that street children have various identities – constructed by the state, society, their families, and themselves. And yet we hardly hear about street children’s identities from street children themselves.
With our partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America, we have been raising awareness of the International Day for Street Children. Created by their fingerprints, the children have been adding their voice through their messages on our social media. They are part of a move to make the International Day for Street Children an official United Nations Day, (like World Water Day or World AIDS Day). If this were to happen, more pressure would be placed on governments worldwide to recognise and support children connected to the street.
Join us and 16,000 other people in signing the petition to make the International Day for Street Children a UN Day. Simply visit www.streetchildrenday.org/the-day/
Together we can make sure that these children are impossible to ignore.