When Abdul was nine, he dropped out of school to start working on the streets of Jakarta.
With a mother and younger sister to help support, Abdul first begged and sang on the street for money before settling on scavenging rubbish. On a good day he would make USD 7, but usually it was only USD 3 for a day’s work.
However, through the assistance of Street to School, a programme of local NGOs that work with the government, Abdul, now 13, is able to attend a vocational training scheme, while taking informal lessons at a shelter to improve his literacy.
“A Street Situation”
The human rights situation of children like Abdul has been the focus of a partnership between the UN Human Rights Office, the insurance company Aviva, and the Consortium for Street Children, an umbrella organization that includes around 80 NGOs working with children on the street. The partnership, which began in 2012, looks at raising awareness at an international level of the situation of children living and working on the street.
The partnership has already published a report on the situation of children living on the street. The report found that numbers frequently cited as authoritative on the matter, could not be substantiated, said Imma Guerras-Delgado, Child Rights Advisor for the Office.
“We really don’t know how many children depend on the street for their survival or development, and we are no closer today to knowing how many children worldwide are in a ‘street situation’,” she said.
Review of Rights
Following the recommendations of the report, the Committee on the Rights of the Child is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of how the Convention on the Rights of the Child can be applied more specifically in the case of children living on the street.
Currently, treatment of children living and working on the street varies from country to country, where in some places children are rounded up and stranded in remote locations far from the city, in others, they are arrested and jailed.
The review, called a General Comment on the Children in Street Situations, will clarify the duties that governments are responsible for under the Convention and provide recommendations for action.
It is hoped that this guidance will help to dispel some of the myths and misunderstandings that surround these children and this will in turn give governments better guidance on how to treat them in a way that respects their rights.
The General Comment will likely take about a year to complete.
One person who exemplifies triumph over circumstance for a child living on the street is that of Vartan Melkonian. As a child in Beirut, Melkonian would watch cruise ships pass in and out of the port, wishing he could be part of the world. He eventually realized his dream, changing his life from that of an orphan who worked on the streets singing, to a renowned conductor and musician.
Melkonian is now a spokesman for the Consortium for Street Children, hoping that his example, and others like him, will help influence how Governments treat children living on the street. He is also an advocate for the implementation of the recommendations of the Office report on children in street situations.
On 12th April the International Day for Street Children is celebrated. This year, the Day will raise awareness on the forthcoming General Comment of the Committee.
10 April 2015