Street Children in Tanzania. Presentation made to the Arusha Caucus for Children’s Rights 4 th August 2004, By Mkombozi Centre for Street Children [email protected] www.mkombozi.org. A profile and call for action. All children, are to some extent vulnerable to coming to the streets.
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If we only start acknowledging them as worthy of intervention once they come to the streets we are merely putting a bandage on the wound rather than preventing the sore in the first place.
In the ongoing debate about ‘Who are street children’ there are various definitions. These include, but are not limited to ‘Full-time street children’ who live, sleep, eat and work on the streets without adult care, ‘Part-time street children’ who spend a part of each day on the streets, begging, playing or working and then return home at night and ‘At risk’ children who live in poverty or are victims of family breakdown and are at risk of coming to live on the street full or part-time. However, important as these definitions may be for planning and monitoring purposes what must drive our work at all time is that each child is an individual with an individual past, aspirations and needs.Spectrum of vulnerability
The child you see loitering on the pavement could be yours.
ILO (2002) A Future without Child Labour. Geneva: International Labour Organisation.
In Best or Vested Interests: Thomas Feeny: Consortium for Street Children, 2004
Successful interventions must address the multiplicity of levels. Currently this is not the case since NGO’s tend to focus on the immediate and underlying. It is primarily the Government’s role to address underlying and structural issues.
Since the early 1990s Tanzania has witnessed a visible increase in the number of children living and working on the street.
A census conducted by Mkombozi in 2003 identified 259 full time and 520 part time street children in Moshi and Arusha.
In Moshi 14% (64) and in Arusha 29% (195) identified themselves as full time street children.
In Moshi 49% (224) and in Arusha 44% (296) of children identified themselves as part time street children.
In both towns there are more part time street children on the streets than full time and more boys than girls.
In Moshi 92% of full time street children and 89% of part time street children are between 10 and 19 years of age.
In Arusha 94% of full time street children and 96% of part time street children were between the ages of 10 – 19.
In Moshi 25% and in Arusha 12% of street children came from Mkombozi’s target communities (Kibosho, Majengo, Machame and Uru).
In Moshi 77.23% and in Arusha 69.26% of part time street children are not in school.What about in Tanzania?
The current problem is not so much the children who are currently on the streets but the scale of children who are vulnerable within their homes and will inevitably come to the streets because there are no alternative safety nets.
When people talk about conflict they immediately think of war or active violence, but Mkombozi strongly believes that conflict is endemic and latent in every human relationship. What matters is how we manage conflict so that it does not escalate into violence. Our experience is that the majority of street children have come from families where conflict is poorly managed and that once on the streets they too perpetuate cycles of running away from conflict or resorting to violence when trying to deal with it.
Inevitably all over the world some children and young people turn to the streets as their primary medium of survival.
John asks, "Why does my father neglect me? I feel bad about the way my father neglects me as his son just because I was born out of wedlock. I try to think what I can do so that my father will accept me as his son. I do not believe that there are parents who can neglect their children who are part of them. My mother was working at my father’s home as a housemaid. She became pregnant by my father. He fired her from her job due to that pregnancy. He does not want to see me and accept me as his son. It is not my fault to be born, but it is my right to know who are my parents so that they can be responsible for my life as a child.”
Mussa is 14 years old. He says, “I will never forget the way my stepmother treated me. She forced me to sleep on the floor at night though there were enough beds. She used to give me many duties each day and when I could not perform them all she used to beat me; one day she burnt me on my hips with a hot knife. I finally ran away when she put poison in my porridge to try and kill me”.What we do affects real lives
What we do affects real lives
Recent focus group discussions (2004) with street children and youth revealed that lack of security and identity as a citizen of Tanzania with rights were real concerns. Frequent harassment by the police and general public is justified by the commonly held perception that street children and youth are a ‘security threat’. They are perceived to be social pariahs who thieve, use drugs and are incapable of offering anything positive to society. Because they do not have identity cards they can be picked up by the police at any time; they have no one to bail them out of jail and such juvenile justice cases can take up to a year before reaching court. These are profound violations of human rights, but because street children and youth fall outside of ‘normal’ social networks they have no voice and are easily exploited.
Within their peer group on the streets conflict is a norm. Power relations between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ are manifested through sexual abuse. The weaker children are raped and when they become more powerful they then rape their peers. Drugs are increasingly used by the children and youth to blot out the cold, hunger and fear that is part of their lives.
It goes without saying that accessing food, medical care and clothes poses a daily challenge to these children and youth.Could you live on the streets?
Adam says "It hurts me when I remember. When I was on the streets I could not sleep because I did not trust any one and was scared because I saw the way other kids were being treated. One night one boy, Isenga was crying. I saw the man called Koko raping him. I decided to run from there. I also saw the dead body of the street boy called Fogo. The other older boys killed him in a fight over money. I did not believe that there are human beings who can behave like animals. It hurts me when I remember.”
The individual and social cost of marginalized urban children and youth is both caused by, and results in, weakened communities which hinder national development.
The following gaps in services were identified by part time street children in 2003:
Full time street children identified the following shortcomings in interventions:
Mkombozi sees a real gap in services for street girls and interventions that address substance abuse (including alcohol) amongst children and their adult carers.