International Day for Street Children 2020
Standing With Street Children Around the World
Between April 8th and 15th, organisations around the world will be recognising International Day for Street Children: a special day acknowledging the strength and resilience of millions of street children around the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the unprecedented need for safety for street children. In the face of lockdowns and curfews, street children around the world are struggling to get money to buy food, are being rounded up into crowded detention centres, losing access to shelters or only able to access ones that are becoming overcrowded and unsafe.
International Day for Street Children has been celebrated globally since 2012, to recognise the humanity, dignity and defiance of street children in the face of unimaginable hardships. We want to rally governments and individuals worldwide to work together to ensure their rights are protected no matter who they are and where they live, even more so in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why street children?
There are millions of children in the world whose lives are inextricably connected with public spaces: streets, buildings, and shopping centers, etc. Some of these children will live on the streets, sleeping in parks, doorways or bus shelters. Others may have homes to go back to, but they rely on the streets for survival and sustenance.
They may be referred to as ‘street children’, ‘street-connected children’, ‘homeless children’ or ‘homeless youth’. Also – at times – they may be described in more negative terms such as ‘beggars’, ‘juvenile delinquents’ and ‘thieves’. Labels that judge a child in this way disguise the fact that these vulnerable children are owed the care, protection, and above all, respect due to all children.
In the words of our patron, The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH, “When children are not cared for we – governments and individuals – have all let them down. It is extraordinary that street children have been left so far behind for so long. Extraordinary – and indefensible. It is as if they are invisible to the conscience of the world.”
This is why, every year on 12th April we celebrate the lives of street children and highlight the efforts to have their rights respected and their needs met in a caring and respectful manner. As the 12th falls on Easter Sunday this year, the CSC Network have decided to have a campaign that runs from 8-15th April so that all organisations working with street children can choose a day that works best for them.
IDSC 2020 – Safe spaces for street children
In 2018, CSC launched our 5-year ‘4 Steps to Equality’ campaign – a call to governments around the world to take four steps that will achieve equality for street children.
The 4 Steps to Equality is based on the UN General Comment on Children in Street Situations, breaking it into four actionable steps:
- Commit to Equality
- Protect Every Child
- Provide Access to Services
- Create Specialised Solutions
In 2020, we concentrate on Step 2: Protect Every Child. We call on Governments to protect street-connected children from violence and abuse and ensure children have access to justice when they are harmed.
Join us in calling for safety and protection for street children.
Do street children have access to safe spaces?
Our theme for the 2020 campaign is Safe Spaces – an issue that has become even more pressing during the COVID-19 pandemic as street-connected children and homeless youth around the world struggle to figure out what curfews and lockdowns mean for them. For many, drop-in centres and shelters that they relied on are closing down, the streets are being heavily policed to enforce curfews, and for those who have homes that they can return to, it may mean returning to an unsafe environment where they are subjected to violence and abuse.
Not only are street children among the most vulnerable children on the planet – deprived of basic needs like food and shelter and disproportionately targeted by violence – but they are now even more at risk of falling ill, and being penalised for not having somewhere safe to go when populations are being put on lockdown.
Street-connected children and homeless youth lack safe places to go during lockdowns and curfews. Governments must make sure they can access somewhere to safely self-isolate, working in collaboration with NGOs already offering shelter and other services to street children.
Governments must also ensure that lockdown measures do not punish or discriminate children and youth who have nowhere else to go.
Street-connected children and homeless youth will be increasingly vulnerable during the pandemic. Many will find it even more difficult to access food, water, healthcare and sanitation.
Governments must include them in schemes and emergency funding that they are putting in place in their country, including specific provisions for street children such as hand washing stations and food outreach programmes. Governments must also allow social workers to continue street outreach work during lockdowns to make sure that children are able to access vital support and information from a trusted adult.
Street-connected children and homeless youth often lack access to accurate and appropriate information on how to stay safe and what to do or where to go when they need care and support.
Governments must provide information and advice that is easy to access and understand for street-connected children and homeless youth, including those with limited or no ability to read.
Street Children Have Rights
Just like all children, street children have rights enshrined in The Child Rights Convention, which has near universal ratification and support. In 2017, the United Nations have specifically acknowledged these children’s rights in a document called the General Comment (No.21) on Children in Street Situations.
The General Comment tells governments how they should treat street children in their countries as well as how to improve current practices.
“The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been signed by every country in the world bar one [the US] but governments have always told us, ‘we can’t apply this convention to street children because it is too difficult.’ The General Comment will enable us to show them how to implement it to ensure street children are offered the same human rights protection as all other children,” said Caroline Ford, CEO, Consortium for Street Children.