Street children: A conceptual approach

C.R.E.E.R.: brief # 1

By Sébastien Jadot – Policy Analyst, C.R.E.E.R

Forewords

It is always a privilege to be a part of a new project. It is even more rewarding when the project is teamed with partners from a variety of backgrounds that are all related in one way or another to Africa. All of us at C.R.E.E.R. have put our experience in African affairs together to make a positive change in the lives of children in Côte d’Ivoire. The phenomenon of street children that is dear to C.R.E.E.R. is a rather complicated topic to discuss and even more so to debate as it touches upon the very fabric of the state; that of its future – of its children.

Street children: Why the briefs?

While people may be familiar with C.R.E.E.R. and the organization’s goals, some may be less familiar with the intrinsic relationships between street children and the social, political, economic or even cultural variables that are interwoven within the street children discourse. The briefs will provide development updates, testimonies and policy analysis, to name a few, that will help to better grasp the necessity for decision makers in Côte d’Ivoire to put the street children phenomenon on the national agenda. We also aim to provide you with as many updates as possible on what C.R.E.E.R. is doing on the ground.

The first brief reflects on the street children phenomenon as a nebulous and often catch-all term that even policymakers find hard to define. While street children are visible, they often remain in the shadows of a definitional maze that has international organizations face a cultural relativism wall of how children are perceived in their respective country.

Street children : Who are they?

Finding an official definition for ‘street children’ is extremely difficult. Human rights practitioners from various backgrounds have, for decades, tried to propose alternative definitions of street children. Many of these definitions have evolved with time and have been refined by the continuing research in multidisciplinary social sciences, policymaking, media exposure to name a few that continue the exploration of the street children phenomenon.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) presents a tridimensional categorisation of ‘street children’:

  • Children ‘of’ the street (presently framed as street-living children), who live on the street, are functionally without their family support;

  • Children ‘on’ the street’ (presently framed as street-working children), who work on the streets and go home their family at night;

  • ‘Street-family children’ who live with their family on the street.1

A most common definition for ‘street children’ was proposed by Inter-Ngo in 1983: “Any girl or boy who has not reached adulthood, for whom the street in the widest sense of the word, including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, and so on, has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, directed, and supervised by responsible adults.”2 The term was later used by the Commission on Human Rights in 1994.3

Today, however, the definition has become more encompassing of new realities. In its latest 2012 report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in partnership with UNICEF, the Consortium for Street Children, and Aviva reported that today “‘street children’ is understood as a socially constructed category that, in practice, does not constitute a homogeneous population, making the term difficult to use for research, policymaking and intervention design.”4 For the Committee on the Rights of the Child “children in street situations” has become the term of choice as is the term “children with street connections” all of which still compete with older terms. The definitional maze is thus alive and well.5

C.R.E.E.R. acknowledges that street children form a fluid and dynamic group that is often marginalized from having a positive participation in the life of their country or host country. This happens despite the fact that street children are active economic agents of a country’s economy, a detail often overlooked and eclipsed by the role played by adults.6 All too frequently, street-children face enormous challenges in gaining access to education, health care but also face violence and exploitation on the street and often in the very institutions tasked to protect them. These impediments greatly reduce the potential for access to social, political and economic opportunities.

Arguably, the narrative will vary with location; from the urban city centres, to the suburbs or in remote rural areas with always an emphasis on local support from both the formal-official channels and informal power structure such as local chiefs, religious leaders. Moreover, adversities such as conflict, climate change and natural disasters, migration, urbanisation, economic hardship, gender discrimination are a few examples that continue to shape the street children debate. The complexity of properly addressing street children at the political base thus confirms the need to effectively unite and garner support from all actors of the civil society. Tackling such phenomenon is thus anything but an easy task. The latter is worsened when decision makers, for a variety of reasons, choose not to or simply fail to intervene, thus putting in jeopardy their country’s very own future; its children; their next generation What is important to note here is that the complexity and specificity of these realities must always be observed through a multi-sectoral approach that avoids the simplification of a phenomenon that cannot be blamed on a single issue.

Street children : Deconstructing the prejudice

A major critic of the street children phenomenon is that it tends to be categorised under a single negative connation that often times eclipses the multidimensional realities that are at play within a particular area where street children are found. The observation is shared by various scholars who emphasize the importance of deconstructing “the concept of street child” which has come to be associated with a life of crime and delinquency.7 A mistake when it is the street that often becomes the child’s unique mean of survival and education. The key element here is to evaluate how street children’s life can be bettered vis à vis a society that has often put them aside. It is exactly because street children’s social status is ranked very low that they are limited in their access to the structure of society. Social and economic exclusions represent a pool of grievances that can quickly be turned into a powerful tool for political destabilisation of which children often become easily coerced into joining.  Sierra Leone or Liberia are perfect illustration of how youth, many of them street children, were coerced into joining militias.

A negative trend has worsened in recent years in part because of conflict, economic hardship, climate-change related factors; that of child trafficking. Based on C.R.E.E.R.’s conceptual approach, trafficked children fall within the social and economic actor category with many of them fitting the street children narrative. While many factors may impact the nature of how and why children are trafficked, a nefarious reality becomes evidently visible on the streets when one actually takes the time to understand that behind every street child there is a story – of which trafficking is but one component.

C.R.E.E.R. – moving beyond invisible children

Human trafficking is the story that C.R.E.E.R. has undertaken to address and with it that of trafficked children. They are invisible to us, nothing can set them apart, but the reality for many street children goes back to that of trafficking. They may occupy jobs as hawkers, street vendors-traders, some may have run away from their place of employment, while others may be forced into prostitution with only the street as exit strategy. With only the street as backdrop, street children struggle to regain their status in society and many, due to a lack of government oversight, fail to aptly use their social capital and skills because of the trafficking stigma. Their stories continue to fuel the street children definitional debate of who is responsible, who is to intervene and who is to prevent trafficking from continuing.

C.R.E.E.R. firmly believes that results can only be achieved with the full support of the authorities at the local, regional and national level along with the participation of grassroots movements. International support is but the logistic linkage that helps facilitate the process of policy implementation. Trafficking is not a result of a particular policy but rather the sum of a myriad of factors that lead children to be trafficked in the first place. Therefore, C.R.E.E.R. is not to replace the state in terms of stopping trafficking but to provide the foundation by which sustainable solutions can be further developed into policies. Such development would first and foremost enhance trafficked street children’s potential for reintegration into society by providing them with a way to reunite with their families and by providing skills, education which are quintessential factors to casting off the social stigma attached to them both at home and in their new environment.

1 UNICEF, 1985. Worksheet for the Regional Operating Plan for Abandoned and Street Children. UNICEF, Geneva.

2 Inter-NGO Programme on Street Children and Street Youth, Sub-regional seminar for the Mediterranean, Marseilles, 24th-27th October 1983: summary of proceedings.

3 ‘The plight of street children’, A/RES/49/212, United Nations, 23 December 1994, http://www.un.org.

4 ‘Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the protection and promotion of the rights of children working

and/or living on the street’, United Nations, 11 January 2012, http://www.ohchr.org.

5Ibid.

6 Levison, D., 2000. Children as economic agents. Feminist Economics 6(1), pp. 125-134.

7 Wiencke, M., 2008. Theoretical reflections on the life world of Tanzanian street children. Anthropology Matters Journal, 10(2), pp. 1-24.

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What hope is there?

A great thanks is owed to Miki Mistrati & Ange Aboa for creating this new online documentary from Burkina Faso, released this morning.

What hope is there for these children & families where the boys aged as young as 12 without any education feel the need to go & work on cocoa plantations to earn money.  Sadly they return without any payment after several years labour.

The villagers say 400-450 a year from a town of 16,000 are trafficked annually, that’s just from one township in one of the neighbouring countries where we know there’s a source of trafficking!  Not just cocoa, we also have to think of those that end up in domestic servitude, prostitution & the mining industry … there are too many!

Halloween Chocolate

Trick or treating is upon us whether we like it or not!

Have you already bought chocolate for Halloween?

Did you read http://nexis.co.uk/pdf/Dark_Chocolate.pdf

The ongoing trafficking of children in Cote d’Ivoire & across the rest of West Africa is an ongoing battle. 

The children that are trafficked for cocoa are a percentage along with those trafficked for domestic servitude and prostitution amongst other ‘trades’.  Major companies such as Hersheys, Cadburys, Ferrero, Mondelez, Green & Blacks, Mars, ADM, Barry Callebaut are all guilty.  

When did you last check the origin of the chocolate you’re eating or give to your children?

Can you make a difference?  Are you able to assist our cause?  Highlight the situation of trafficking in West Africa?

When you open your door to children who ask for chocolate, will you tell them the truth?  That their peers are being bought for as little as 50€ to be sold on as slaves in the chocolate industry and elsewhere???

Help us at C.R.E.E.R to help them, thank you!

Aminah is on her way

Aminah is on her way south to us; at 3pm today was south of Orleans heading to us in deepest southern France.  www.overlandingwestafrica.com‘s shiny blue ‘truck’ with her new stickers for the 2013/2014 season .  Our boxes will once again be taken by Aminah ready for our centre in Cote d’Ivoire!  Overlanding West Africa are yet again being generous with a donation from their ticket sales to support our future centre to rehabilitate trafficked children in West Africa!

Aminah with her new flags

Aminah with her new flags

And so CNN had to leave …

But not without a great second day with our team in Cote d’Ivoire took CNN Freedom Project Presenter Richard Quest & team to Divo meeting planters en masse, offering them chocolate which many won’t have tasted before as they don’t have the means to pay for it.   Sadly the box the chocolate is in is probably the equivalent to a days salary at most!

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C.R.E.E.R’s Secretary PC with CNN Freedom Project’s Richard Quest & cocoa planters in Divo, Cote d’Ivoire

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Richard Quest, CNN’s Freedom Project offering chocolates to cocoa planters in Divo; many won’t have tried chocolates & the cost of manufacturing the box is probably a days salary for many!

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CNN’s Richard Quest being filmed in Divo by Beau Molloy

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Group goodbyes, from L to R: Erick Attiapo, C.R.E.E.R’s Director, Matt, CNN’s Executive Producer, PC, C.R.E.E.R’s Secretary of the Board in Cote d’Ivoire & Beau Molloy, CNN Cameraman

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Just before CNN’s Richard Quest flew out of Abidjan, with PC & Erick from C.R.E.E.R either side of him

The trip was a great success for CNN & for C.R.E.E.R to be involved, although CNN Freedom project was following up on child labour in cocoa plantations; what mustn’t be forgotten is that there are children also being trafficked for domestic servitude & prostitution!

Akwaba Sébastien!

We are thrilled to welcome Sébastien Jadot to the C.R.E.E.R team, based in Brussels, Belgium; seat of the EU government he has an excellent background to join C.R.E.E.R as a Policy Analyst and on a benevolent level.

Sébastien wrote an excellent article on the historical & political background to cocoa farming; highlighting the reasons why the farmers are in need of child labour:

http://www.consultancyafrica.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1190%3Acote-divoires-blood-beans-big-men-politics-conflict-and-environmental-degradation-in-the-land-of-cocoa-&catid=92%3Aenviro-africa&Itemid=297

He will be working closely with C.R.E.E.R’s teams in France & Cote d’Ivoire, as well as our supporters globally.  He will be writing policy briefs exploring debates regarding child trafficking for the cocoa from an EU perspective and their policies in regards to cocoa plantations with Cote d’Ivoire as a particular focus.

We’re particularly keen to work with EU government policy makers & stakeholders to make a change for the future as well as providing support to C.R.E.E.R & the start of the centre!

As is said in Cote d’Ivoire ‘Akwaba’ & thank you for agreeing to join us!!!

STOP PRESS from Friday 12th July 2013

Following our STOP PRESS piece on Friday, here are the two articles mentioned.

A massive thanks goes to C.R.E.E.R’s Vice President in Cote d’Ivoire who retrieved these articles!  Please note these children are going to ‘several NGO’s’ but many we suspect will be orphanages who aren’t used to dealing with the emotional needs of these children.

1st copy: NOUVEAU REVEIL

2nd copy: LE PATRIOT

Both published Friday 12th July, 2013ImageImage

Annual Fundraiser

Gorgeous small village in southern France near the Spanish border … come & assist C.R.E.E.R please; crazy games for the whole family!

Music in the evening for the young, or a choral in the 11th century Abbey!

JeuxMondiaux 2013Lots of varying accomodation on site, from camping to luxury hotels!

STOP PRESS!!!

We have just been alerted that 200 trafficked chldren were found in transport in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire heading for cocoa farms the night of 10th/11th July (the night before last)

The majority are apparently from neighbouring Burkina Faso; there is also talk that they are part of a convoy of 750 trafficked people but this isn’t confirmed.

Whilst we’re really happy that the Ivorian authorities have found these children; we have a few questions:

1.  Who is going to manage these children?

2.  Where will they be in the interim prior to being taken home?

3.  How did they cross the border?

Our own view is that they probably entered Cote d’Ivoire in small numbers with an adult as happens on the Ghanaian border so as to divert any suspiscicn.  This was discussed with an Ivorian lady in April who has a shop in Elubo and is aware of children crossing with an adult, usually up to 5 children at a time.

We hope that the situation for these 200 children will be resolved shortly & they can return home as quickly as possibly; however there’s always the worry they’ll be re-trafficked!

 

(An article was seen in Le Patriote & Nouveau Reveil 12/07/13 concerning this situation)

Dreams realised after five days work in Cote d’Ivoire

Arranging a trip to Cote d’Ivoire via Ghana in under a week is not for the faint-hearted, particularly when your visa for Ghana has expired! This is what happened just prior to Easter.  The decision was made by C.R.E.E.R’s board that unless one of the board was on the ground in Cote d’Ivoire, nothing would move forward.  The only option due to flights was to go via Accra. Thanks to good friends of C.R.E.E.R’s in London, one of the Founder’s passports was sent in advance to obtain another 2 year multiple entry visa for Ghana, to be issued in 24hours.

A quick turnaround in London and landed in Accra on the Wednesday evening.  A lot of pleading on the Thursday before Good Friday (a public holiday in Ghana), the Ivorian Embassy went out of their way to assist the passage by bending all the rules.  C.R.E.E.R’s founder managed to get a visa in 5hours rather than the normal 3 days due to the exceptional circumstances.  Luckily the consul remembered the face having given a visa during the 2010/2011 crisis after much pleading then! Accra - Abobo Travelling by public transport to the Ghana-Ivorian border at Elubo/Noe on a public holiday is never all that enjoyable especially with an early 5am start!  Finally at 7pm (14hrs later) on Good Friday evening C.R.E.E.R was re-united in Bassam with our Ivorian Director, Erick after 2 years of only contact over the internet and phone!  After a mere 5 changes of transport to get there in the hot, cramped, uncomfortable conditions West African bush taxis always offer!

The few long 18+hr days of work started in earnest the next day with a base in the Abobo district of Abidjan.  An Ivoirian board meeting didn’t go as planned due to various family commitments but we saw all the board members that Easter weekend around Abidjan. Monday morning; another early start to travel to Abengourou, a mere 193km away, however the road after Adzope is in a bad state.  Four hours later, sore from the tightly packed minibus with homemade metal framed seats (& poor padding) we arrived in town.  The founder had previously visited Abengourou in 2009 and remembered a few landmarks, but now we had to explore the town thoroughly to see it’s suitability.Abobo Abidjan - Abengourou Erick had carried out a lot of the groundwork for C.R.E.E.R since last seeing him during the Ivorian crisis in January 2011.  Our latest news was that King Nanan Boa Kouassi III of Abengourou was willing to donate land to the project; but to move this kind gesture forward our presence was needed on the ground.  Abengourou is ideally situated for the project, with the border at Niable for Ghana under 20km away. Cote d’Ivoire’s 10th largest town, it has all the facilities that the project needs.  It’s in a region of agriculture including cocoa, rubber & timber.

Our first few hours in town we got our bearings & immediately went to the hospital, Centre Hopitalier Regionale d’Abengourou to see the facilities and find a competent professional to join the team part-time.  DSCN1974DSCN1969DSCN1971We met with Sylvie, a nurse, who was very interested in the project for Abengourou and agreed with us to work on a contractual basis.  When we’re operational she will work with the centre, visiting on a fortnightly basis to check the children and advise on medical and dietary matters.

Tuesday morning dawned; Abengourou was suffering from a power cut so  sleeping past 5.30am was impossible with the hotel room’s fan not working, a ‘mere’ 35 degrees by 8.30am!

Meeting with Director of Youth, Sport & Leisure, Abengourou We headed out to firstly visit our bank in town to start organising an account; quickly followed by a visit to the post office to enquire about a postal box.  We were expected by the King at the Royal Court at 10am.  However, his adviser sent us to the Director of Youth, Sport & Leisure who gave us an in-depth interview about the project, Erick had already been through this on a previous visit.  They were alarmed by the story of ‘Zoe’s Ark’ they quizzed  us at length to ensure our suitability.  It was reassuring that they were taking C.R.E.E.R seriously and weren’t leaving any stone unturned! Roi d'Abengourou

Returning to the Royal Court, we sat with the notability; the King spoke through his spokesman to fully agree the project.  He granted us our land and our presence in Abengourou to help street children, some of which are trafficking victims.

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Elated, we departed for a late lunch prior to returning to the long road back to Abidjan! None of this would have been achieved without Erick’s hard work, his friend Charlemagne & Mamy, the King’s niece facilitating for C.R.E.E.R.  Another long afternoon on the road in Charlemagne’s car; the Founder arrived in Grand Bassam at 10.30pm due to the roads and traffic!

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Wednesday was due to be the day of departure to return to Accra but it wasn’t to be.  Our NGO paperwork has been in order & many NGO’s work with the paperwork we had but there was one final formality that hadn’t moved forward & had to be organised prior to departure.  Our paperwork had been sitting at the police station for 18months which wasn’t ideal considering Erick had made many trips to prompt the police to move it forward.  Despite a call a few days earlier to inform the police we wanted a meeting, our presence was a revelation to them at 8am.  We were told to return later in the morning; we duly took our place in an office at 10am to find that all our files on their computers had ‘vanished’ and it all had to be typed from scratch again.  Frustration!!!  After 4hours of sitting tight to ensure the papers were finally printed and sent to the correct office; the return journey to Accra was in sight, but for the following morning … Another early start at 4am to cross the border as it opened! Thrilled that C.R.E.E.R finally has a home in Cote d’Ivoire with a town that has welcomed us and wanting to work with us!  It couldn’t have been a better trip!

A few shots of Abengourou

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