International Day for Street Children 2021

Standing With Street Children Around the World

Between April 6th and 12th, 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 pandemic has highlighted how street-connected children are too often excluded from accessing essential services such as healthcare, education, and access to justice. 

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. After the success of celebrating the lead up to the week last year, the CSC Network have decided to hold the campaign from 6-12th April this year, so that all organisations working with street children can choose a day that works best for them.

IDSC 2021 – Access to essential services

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:

  1. Commit to Equality
  2. Protect Every Child
  3. Provide Access to Services
  4. Create Specialised Solutions

In 2021, we concentrate on Step 3: Provide Access to Services. We call on Governments to take action so that street children can access the services they need to reach their full potential.

Stand together with us to make Access for Street Children a reality.

Find out more about the 4 Steps to Equality campaign.

Do street children have access to essential services?

Our theme for the 2021 campaign is Access to Essential Services – 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 access services that they are routinely denied. For many, drop-in centres and mobile clinics that they relied on are closing down, they cannot access emergency services such as food parcels as they are not registered, 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 access to basic services like education and healthcare and disproportionately targeted by violence – but they are now even more at risk of being excluded as the world begins to navigate a recovery from the pandemic.

Ask your government to ensure street children can access essential services

Governments must ensure that street-connected children can access essential services, including education, child protection and healthcare during the pandemic when access is already restricted.

Governments must include them in schemes and emergency funding that have been put 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 restrictions to make sure that children are able to access vital support and information from a trusted adult.

Governments must prioritise investment in access to essential services for street children as they navigate recovery from the pandemic. 

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, (CSC Chief Executive Jan 2017- Feb 2021).