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.

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!

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!

Discussions at Nestlé

Silence has prevailed for a few months, the C.R.E.E.R board have been busy with a number of projects for future fundraising.  On return from the founder’s visit from Cote d’Ivoire, we rang Nestlé again who were already aware of us, to explain what happened on the trip there.

Nestlé invited us to Vevey, their HQ in Switzerland at 10am on 9th July.  Train tickets for the Founder & Treasurer were duly booked & a hostel reservation was made.  The day of departure, the Treasurer wasn’t well with a bad back that had been a problem over the weekend.  On Monday 8th July, the Founder found herself alone boarding the train to Vevey via Geneva & Nimes.

After a long 11hour train trip with 3 changes, Vevey was in sight, a beautiful town on Lake Leman!

??????????DSCN2288??????????The meeting started at 10am,  Nestle has it’s own Avenue in Vevey; a short walk from the lovely ‘Grande Place’.  A presentation had already been put together for the meeting with a few extra support letters arriving at the last minute that needed printing out.

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Overall, the meeting went well, C.R.E.E.R is a ‘new’ NGO without a building as yet or children so the fact that Nestle’s door remains open is a positive.

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However a few questions were puzzling.  Without wanting to explicity say ‘there are trafficked children on cocoa farms in Cote d’Ivoire (which we are SURE you are aware of)’ there were a few questions that were raised in regards as to ‘where’ the children for the centre would appear from.

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Surely this is obvious, there are children out there that have runaway from their enslavement and living on the streets.  There are children that are arriving at the borders that need specialist assistance & not to be put in an orphanage.  There are also those children that may hear of us & come to us.  However C.R.E.E.R will not be visiting farms to extract children from cocoa farmers, this would cause chaos!

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A second issue was the repatriation.  C.R.E.E.R will be working with other organisations both on a governmental level & in terms of iNGO’s such as UNICEF, Oxfam etc to ensure that repatriation will give a solid future for each child.  Of course we cannot assess & are not ‘gods’ to make the decision for each child but we aren’t prepared to repatriate a child to a home where the family may re-sell that child or they aren’t accepted into the community.  Those that ‘can’t’ go home for whatever reason will be offered a place on a long term basis in the centre; but this won’t be our work, it will be the work of external organisations to ensure their future.

Trafficking WAfrica

Another point that was raised was why the government aren’t carrying out this project.  It was clearly stated that the government had built two centres for a total cost of US$206,000 & had written about this in the US AID TIP 2013 which they then refused to acknowledge any donations as their trafficking problem would be kept in-house.  The centre that we visited in 2011 during the crisis was built in a shantytown.  It had never been used, it was vandalised, people were squatting on the land with their own buildings … need we go on???  Sorry, but Nestlé, had you done your homework on this?

Centre de l'Etat

We were touched by the letter from Mr. Outtara, a Director of a governmental agency that we met in Abengourou who strongly wrote in our favour.  As well as many other supporters including our US based Ghanaian consultant.

Support from all our followers is still needed to ensure that Nestlé as well as other companies support our mission, that we can get this project off the ground!

Thanks for continuing to follow us!

An Interview with Nikki – volunteer fundraiser

18 months ago, I became involved with C.R.E.E.R by pure chance. Someone suggested that perhaps people could come up with ideas for fundraising. So, after a few glasses of wine, I piped up “Why don’t we have our own Olympics?”! Talk about being jumped on! So it came to pass that I got asked to help organise this and come up with the games! Thank goodness for locals here – they were brilliant, and within a few weeks we had volunteers for everything! Posters, BBQ, cake stall, bar, etc., were all sorted and a date was set. We even had medals for all the 1st, 2nd & 3rd places in each game!
Nikki
Although it was windy and not all that warm, lots of kids turned up (with assorted parents & grandparents in tow), and the games commenced. What surprised me most was the amount of support we received for C.R.E.E.R, both from the participants and the volunteer force! Everyone was aware of what the day was for, why these trafficked children NEED help so desperately and how they could play their part even while they were enjoying themselves!
The games were a hit, C.R.E.E.R coffers benefitted from a not insubstantial amount and the whole exercise was considered a success – so much so, that this year we’re having the World Games! I feel privileged to be a part of this organisation and I will be lending my support in any way I can for as long as I can! This has to be one of the most deserving causes I have ever been involved with and I would say to anyone who has any doubts, don’t hesitate, join in and be part of this truly wonderful cause.
Thanks to Nikki, the Olympics became a massive success in our small village in France; even the Tour de France sponsors ‘Ibis Hotels’ helped out on the day!  Not only did she create the Olympics which is now becoming an annual event but she also helps us fundraise with lost property items!

Excellent piece on the situation!  Please think about the origin of your chocolate this Easter!

Listen Girlfriends!

With Valentine’s Day behind us and Easter just a few weeks away, I thought there was no better time to write a post on the chocolate industry than now, when ‘chocolate season’ seems to be in full bloom. Even though it may seem that I am taking somewhat of a detour from my current series on fashion by writing about all things cocoa, the fact is, the chocolate and textile industries share much in common. Both produce things that give people around the world pleasure, and yet that pleasure often comes at a cost. My previous posts on fashion, conflict minerals and technology have attempted to reveal the obstacles in maintaining transparency across our global supply chains, and chocolate is no exception here. If glamor is a facade that often hides the exploitation behind the fashion industry, then the sweetness of chocolate found within the brightly foiled wrappers can…

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Monday, March 18 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

Howard University

Welcome by Alfonzye Chisholm Jr., Director, Office of Sustainability, Howard University

NOTHING LIKE CHOCOLATE (USA/Grenada/Ivory Coast, 2012, 67 min.)Washington, D.C. Premiere   From currency to candy, chocolate reflects a rich history of sacred ritual, endorphin highs, hip anti-oxidants, exotic sensuality, high quality luxury and enslaved children. The film tells the compelling story of Mott Green, founder of the Grenada Chocolate Company Cooperative, as he pursues his unique vision to create the best chocolate in the world, ethically and taste-wise. Also featuring Nelice Stewart, an independent cocoa farmer in Grenada, the documentary shows how the Caribbean island of Grenada has become home to this revolutionary venture. In a world of mass-produced chocolate – often made with cocoa harvested by trafficked child labor – and bean prices that have fueled civil war in Africa, this artisanal small chocolate factory is fast becoming a serious competitor to industrial chocolate. The Grenada Chocolate Factory, a worker-owned cooperative, draws on solar power, employee shareholding and small-scale antique equipment to make delicious, organic, and socially conscious chocolate. Narrated by Susan Sarandon. Directedand produced by Kum-Kum Bhavnani.

FREE. No reservations required.  

Howard University, Digital Auditorium, Blackburn Student Center, 2397 Sixth St., NW (Metro: Shaw/Howard University) Campus shuttle from Shaw/Howard University Metro. All open parking lots on campus will be free after 5:00 p.m.

Link: ‘Nothing Like Chocolate’ Washington D.C. Premiere

An event not to be missed on MONDAY!  Wishing that our board in both Cote d’Ivoire & France were closer to Washington D.C.

This event has no relation to C.R.E.E.R or it’s boards but we are wanting to help spread the word!

The difference between Orphans and Trafficked Children

Following a conversation earlier with an organisation who has signed up to the Fair Labor Association; we realised the need to examine the ‘difference’ between an orphan and a trafficked child.

An orphan – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphan

A trafficked child – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trafficking_of_children

“This can stem from a dangerous “movement” stage of trafficking or from specific aspects of the “exploitation” stage, such as hazardous working conditions. Moreover, trafficked children are often denied access to healthcare, effectively increasing their chances of serious injury and death.[2] Trafficked children are also often subject to domestic violence; they may be beaten or starved in order to ensure obedience.[2] In addition, these children frequently encounter substance abuse; they may be given drugs as “payment” or to ensure that they become addicted and thus dependent on their trafficker(s).[2] As opposed to many other forms of crime, the trauma experienced by children who are trafficked is often prolonged and repeated, leading to severe psychological impacts.[70] UN.GIFT reports that trafficked children often suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other conditions.[70]

Effects on families are also severe. Some families believe that sending or allowing their children to relocate in order to find work will bring in additional income, while in reality many families will never see their trafficked children again.[2] In addition, UN.GIFT has found that certain forms of trafficking, particularly sexual exploitation in girls, bring “shame” to families.[70] Thus, in certain cases, children who are able to escape trafficking may return to their families only to find that they are rejected and ostracized.”

Orphans can be trafficked, trafficked children are put to work.

Trafficked children often have higher emotional & educational needs.

The two groups need different attention & support.

C.R.E.E.R is working for trafficked children, orphans or not!  The need for such a centre has already been identified on the ground in Cote d’Ivoire & Ghana due to the lack of these two critical elements of emotional & educational support for ‘our’ group of children.

Your assistance to rehabilitate these children is appreciated in whatever form it may be available!