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Street Children, Child Exploitation & Begging In Ukraine. A Guide for Volunteers, Teachers, Youth Workers and Social Workers. Produced by the Gender and Development Working Group. An Introduction into Street Children in Ukraine Ways to combat the issue in your Community.
A Guide for Volunteers, Teachers, Youth Workers
and Social Workers
Produced by the Gender and Development Working Group
Child exploitation: Any girl or boy who has not reached adulthood, for whom the street (in the broadest sense of the word, including unoccupied dwellings, wasteland, etc.) has become her or his habitual abode and/or sources of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, supervised or directed by responsible adults. Can be in many forms, including sexual exploitation, forced labor, organ removal and/or begging. The exploiter takes advantage of the child for their own monetary gain. –Inter-NGO, UNICEF
Child Begging: Children who ask for money, which in most cases, goes to the exploiter, not the child. Some children are exploited by their family members, and some are exploited by traffickers who prey on children in need.
There are two main groups of children who are most vulnerable to being exploited:
Children that run away from home or that are kicked out, due to problems in the home
Children from Orphanages
Both groups become a part of the category “Street Children” as the streets are where children from both groups usually end up.
80% of all street children in Ukraine have at least one alcoholic parent and 7% of children in transit centers have never attended school – in a country with a reported 99% literacy rate.
Most families in Ukraine have to survive on less than $2 a day, and there are estimated to be as many as 250,000 people on the street in Ukraine. –Depaul International
Kids become street children because of their family situation, or lack there of (ie. Growing up in an orphanage). Children are able to escape violence, alcoholic parents, and neglect by not living in their homes. Many children are not aware that life on the street is one that is hard to escape from.
Beds within orphanages are provided for every youth in Ukraine without a family.
Children are provided a bed until 18, where they are then considered an adult. However, some leave to attend technical school, which begins at 15 years old.
Children in orphanages that are old enough for technical school (which is provided by the government), are usually not given a choice in their area of study. Some youth choose to leave the schools and look for employment due to this lack of choice. This leads many to life on the streets. (Depaul International)
Many youth leave orphanages because of conflict with friends, staff, and/or lack of freedoms and privacy. (Depaul International)
Definition of Street Children:
The term ‘street children’ is usually applied to children under the age of 18, who either live or make a living on the streets, or are “street connected”, meaning they may not live on the streets but whom the streets play a significant role in their life.
Children that are homeless, lonely and deserted... most of them are the victims of their own families and indifference of neighbors, authorities and society.
Some may have family connections and choose to run away from home, others are simply abandoned, and some leave the orphanage they are provided with. This can be due to domestic violence, indifference with family or orphanage staff, and lack of options/freedoms.
For some youth, life on the streets is a better situation than being at home or in the care of orphanages.
They find refuge in basements, attics and at the openings of the heating system and sewers. Most of their time they spend at the markets, railway stations or metro stations, where they do whatever they can to get money and food, including begging and involvement in prostitution.
They don't go to school and their health condition is very bad. Most of them need urgent medical help. (Sunshine-Kiev.org; interview with Depaul International)
Street children are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse and drug use, as well as being susceptible to TB, alcohol addiction, glue sniffing, and crime. Most street children have to seek shelter from the freezing winter temperatures by sleeping underground near hot water mains, in cellars, and in railway stations. (Depaul International)
HIV/Aids is a major issue in Ukraine, as it is growing faster here than in any other place in the world. The HIV epidemic in the region is driven by an explosive mix of injecting drug use and, more recently, sexual transmission.
Children and young people, including those living on the streets, constitute a group whose risk of contracting HIV is particularly high. Today, one third of new HIV infections in the region are among the 15–24 age group and more than 80 per cent of people living with HIV in the region are under 30 years old.
Street Children face hardships and exploitation such as trafficking, prostitution, child labor, sexual abuse, exposure to HIV/AIDS and lack of medical attention to serious health issues.
Estimating the number of street children is difficult due to the transient lifestyle they lead and the debates surrounding the precise definition of the term. Estimates are as high as 100-150 million around the world.
Organizations in Ukraine that work with street children are not allowed to have over-night shelters (the government forbids it). They can only provide short-term care such as drop-in centers that are during the day.
There are transit centers that youth are brought to if they are picked up by the police, need more intensive care that is not provided by orphanages, or need a transition place before going home (after being on the street).
-They provide a secure shelter (locked from both the inside and outside), as well as food and schooling.
-They also provide psychological care, and social workers to help with family reunification.
The youth must stay in the shelter for 30 days, even if their family situation is figured out.
Hotlines: There are hotlines provided by La-Strada Ukraine, for assistance with domestic violence and human trafficking issues, or for advice:
386 or 0-800-500-3350 or 0 800-500-225
The number provided by International Organization for Migration for counter-trafficking and migrant advice:
527 or 0 800 500 501
Not only are children being exploited for street begging, children are also being exploited for organ donation. The following stories were told by our contact from the A21 Campaign; she had heard them from other organizations:
-A mom and daughter were shopping at the Dreamtown mall in Kiev, and the mom turned to look at something. When she turned back, her daughter was gone. The mother went to the mall security immediately and ordered them to close all the doors and not to let anyone out. They found the girl in the men’s bathroom, with a shaved head and wearing boy clothes. The traffickers worked in organ exploitation.
-Boy children in communities are being approached by “futbol” representatives that tell the kids they have talent. All they need is an exam to make sure they are healthy enough to work with the representatives. Kids are then brought to “work” with the representatives, never to return home. Their healthy organs are sold on the black market.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) state that all children have a right to prevention, protection, participation and provision.
We can work with governments. Where families and communities are unable to care for children, it is the responsibility of the government to provide special protection and assistance to these children.
We can work with the public, businesses and other charities. By raising awareness and giving a voice to street children, we can help to ensure their rights are not ignored.
We can carry out research. By carrying out research we can show where more support is needed and what approaches work best in helping street children.
Knowledge is Prevention!
Teach youth about street children and what they can do to combat the issue. We have provided lesson activities and a power point for children to help discuss street children within schools.
Teach youth in schools and orphanages on topics around respect, positive conflict resolution, self-esteem, HIV/AIDS, personal safety, human trafficking, and other healthy lifestyle topics.
Train orphanage staff on street children and the issues youth face while at orphanages. It may be a sensitive topic, so can also train staff on youth development topics, as it may allow them to understand the youth better (Project Respect, conflict resolution, ect). Peace Corps has many resources to be utilized on sharepoint and pcvukraine.org.
Conduct community trainings for staff of schools and administration. We have provided organizations who will conduct trainings at no cost.
A21 Campaign: Their mission is to abolish slavery by the end of the 21st Century. They operate throughout Ukraine and conduct trainings on trafficking prevention in orphanages/schools/universities during the school year as well as during camps in the summer.
A21 Ukraine Development Manager
La-Strada Ukraine: They provide trainings around many topics within the realm of children and exploitation: trafficking, child pornography, domestic and sexual violence, and street children. They also have many materials and pamphlets and will send them to anyone who would like them, at no cost (however, the post office may charge a small fee when picking up the package).
Both can work with you on developing a training based on your community needs!
La Strada has a national hotline that is toll-free (0-800-500-225). If a victim is reported to La-Strada, they will report it to the Social Department of Ukraine.
International Organization for Migration provides a hotline for counter-trafficking and migrant advice. Can also report suspected victims. Call toll-free: 527 or 0 800 500 501.
Also there is the specialized police unit in the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine (38-044-374-37-79).
The police (102). However, with the police they will not permit anonymity, and will ask for your information.
Major tip on Reporting!
If someone reports a suspected victim or a victim known of being trafficked, reporting should not be in any proximity to the possible victim. Victims who are controlled by a pimp or trafficker are always being watched and it could be a possible hostile situation to report near the victim. This is not to scare people away from reporting, but we want everyone to be in a safe place, away from the situation, when reporting.
If you have any further questions, please utilize the subcommittee Counter Human Trafficking of the Gender and Development council. We are always willing to answer questions or help you set up a training! Contact information is as follows:
Co-Chair of the CHT Subcommittee
Life 093-9454-957, MTC 095-0528-064
Co-Chair of the CHT Subcommittee
General email for all Gender and Development council subcommittees
Also, there are many lesson plans and activities on the topic of human trafficking on pcvukraine.org (Gender tabCounter Trafficking), and sharepoint (Volunteer Resources PCV Resources Resources By Topic Human Trafficking).