Eva sleeps on the street. She also spends most of her day there, selling flowers to earn a living so that she can eat. Eva’s story is not unique. She, along with millions of other children around the world, calls the street her home. Home Street Home, the theme for this year’s International Day for Street Children, highlights that for many children the street is their home: the place where they spend the majority of their time; forge an identity for themselves; and often sleep.
Street children are highly marginalised and excluded from society, routinely ignored by their communities and by their governments. This is epitomised in the stigma, discrimination and direct exposure to violence that street children encounter daily. Policies often neglect street children and communities are often hostile to street children, seeing them as a nuisance and a social problem. However, street children have the same potential as any other children, given the opportunity.
The International Day for Street Children serves as a platform for street children around the world – and their champions – to speak out so that their rights are not ignored. The Day draws attention to street children’s lived experiences and challenges negative perceptions. Although street children are vulnerable to the dangers of life on the street, they are resilient and resourceful and see themselves as able to make a positive contribution to society:
If I am to be asked, what have you done with your life, I want to say that I’ve helped others. (A street girl in Morocco)
The Day has galvanised grassroots support since its inception in 2011and is effectively used by street children to raise their voices. Last year street children participated in demonstrations, rallies, sporting events, theatre performances and talent shows; many demanding change from their government. A significant aspect of the Day is this collective action of street children around the world. Street children can see that there are others like them in different countries and that they too are demanding to be heard by their communities, their governments and their peers.
The Day was launched by the Consortium for Street Children in 2011 and has grown over the past three years. However, it is vital that the Day is not owned by any one organisation and that is why 2013 sees the launch of a campaign for UN recognition of the Day. With UN recognition comes greater global exposure of the issue, continuity and increased pressure on governments to act.
You can help to Demand a Day for street children by signing the petition at www.streetchildrenday.org.