This year marks a landmark five years in the partnership between Red Nose Day USA and Consortium for Street Children for our Keeping Street Connected Children Safe project.
The key to the success of this partnership has been our mutual commitment to the world’s most vulnerable children, and to mark this anniversary we are looking back at what we have achieved together over the past five years, and celebrating our partnership with Red Nose Day USA.
Since 2017, we have worked directly in 12 countries (including the UK) providing immediate service support to children in poverty. As well as this, we have spearheaded the necessary work in advocating for street-connected children’s rights, ensuring that they are able to enjoy the rights that they are entitled to – to shelter, healthcare, education, protection, among others – the same rights as every other child.
This combination of immediate response and preventative longer-term work is the backbone to all the work that we do with the project Keeping Street Connected Children Safe.
Keeping street-connected children safe while they are on the streets
Protecting children who are street-connected remains a core focus of the project, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to devastate already vulnerable communities worldwide.
Over the last five years, CSC, Red Nose Day USA and our in-country partners have been working to strengthen grassroots service delivery to street-connected children, and have reached 7,844 children directly.
This includes ensuring that street children have safe spaces to access essential services like food, healthcare, and shelter, and providing customised educational support to help children enrol or stay in education. Over the past 5 years, these partnerships have also included work on rehabilitation for drug addiction in the Philippines, the creation of child-friendly police stations in Delhi, India, and birth certificate registration in Nigeria. Alongside these country-specific activities, projects around the world have provided family reunification, life skills training including vocational training, personal and social skills development, conflict resolution, and trauma counselling.
Project snapshot: The Safe Space (2017-18)
More than 900 children have accessed the Safe Space in Sealdah, Kolkata, run by project partner CINI and StreetInvest. This is somewhere young people can talk, stay and rest, and provides varied programmes ranging from meeting basic needs, like the food programme, to dance therapy sessions designed to help children overcome trauma. The space holds a daily children’s meeting, allowing children to participate in decisions affecting them and to voice their opinions about their lives – for example, telling street workers about the adults in their community who are abusing them and communicating ways in which they would like to be involved or change the Safe Space programme, Without Red Nose Day USA funding, this space would have had to close.
In addition to our in-country work with partners, our Digitally Connecting Street Children platform has allowed 548 children from 6 countries to connect with each other, and to share their lives and experiences with others like them around the world. Phase 2 of this platform will launch later this year, with more countries joining and allowing more street children to use it to help reduce their isolation during difficult periods such as any future lockdowns and other measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus, improving their understanding of their rights, and increasing their digital literacy.
Making the future safe for street children
In order to keep street-connected children safe, we must also ensure that they are visible, and that their rights are known, respected, and advocated for at local, national, and international levels.
The Red Nose Day USA partnership has allowed CSC to build on the landmark work of our organisation in the adoption of the UN General Comment No. 21 on Children in Street Situations, which we had been working towards since our inception in 1992. The publication of this comment was a historical moment for street children, setting out for the first time ever authoritative guidance to States on upholding the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but applying this specifically to the context of street-connected children, and in consultation with them – a world first. However, publication of this General Comment is only the first step, and the partnership with Red Nose Day USA has facilitated the shift from words and promises into direct action, through the development of country-level National Plans, designed in conjunction with the government to advise on supporting street children and upholding their rights in three countries – Uruguay, The Philippines, and Sierra Leone. These plans also help to provide a framework for our network members to advocate for the creation of National Plans with their own governments.
Building on this work, CSC’s e-learning course, which welcomed its first cohort in January 2021, has 60 sign-ups from 16 different countries, who are learning how to develop an advocacy strategy and action plans aligned to their organisation’s capacity and strengths. Our in-country and virtual advocacy training has now expanded to reach 14 countries, building civil society organisations’ capacity to develop effective advocacy strategies and plans, and their understanding of relevant international human rights frameworks.
Project snapshot: Philippines National Plan (2017-21)
In 2017, Bahay Tuluyan took an active role in the National Network on Street Children in the Philippines, a group working to create a national plan of action for street-connected children. Throughout 2018-2020, the organisation engaged with numerous agencies and committees, eventually formalising the Sub Committee on the Protection and Welfare of children in street situations. In October 2020, this committee finalised the Philippine National Multi-Sectoral Strategic Plan for Children in Street Situations; a significant achievement as it is the first time that the Philippines has had a national, rights-based, multi-sectoral strategic plan for children in street situations, and the Philippines is only the second country in the world to have a national plan for street children. Bahay Tuluyan is now working with the committee to develop action plans to enable the national plan to be implemented.
Uniting our network
Alongside our direct work with in-country partners, our partnership with Red Nose Day USA is fundamental in helping to spread innovative new interventions and practices throughout our network of almost 200 member organisations working in 135 countries, creating a ripple effect that helps to improve the lives of street-connected children worldwide.
We know that it is only possible to make the future safe for street children if they are recognised and included by national and international bodies in decisions which affect their lives, which sadly often does not happen. With Red Nose Day USA’s support, CSC has been able to scale and develop activities which unite our network members, researchers, practitioners and supporters to raise the voice of street children on a global scale.
The International Day for Street Children is celebrated every year on April 12, with organisations advocating for the rights of street children. Awareness of the day has grown steadily year-on-year thanks to Red Nose Day USA’s support, with 2021 the most successful year to date. Over 60 million people were reached through social media messaging which called for States to ensure that street-connected children can access essential services such as healthcare, education, and protection from violence.
Alongside this, our annual conference provides an opportunity for organisations working with and for street children around the world to come together and discuss challenges, successes, and ideas relating to their work. This unrivalled knowledge sharing extends to our research library, the largest online collection of research relating to street-connected children and the issues they face.
As one of the world’s most marginalised population groups, street-connected children are at constant risk of being left behind in development programmes. However, thanks to the tireless support of Red Nose Day USA over the last five years, we have been able to shine a light on the issues street children face, provide on-the-ground support, and make concrete steps towards a better future for all street children.
It has been a great opportunity to sit back and reflect on CSC’s incredible achievements over the past five years with our Red Nose Day partnership – and to say that CSC would not be the organisation it is today without support from Comic Relief US really is an understatement. The continued support, thanks to the generosity of public donations, has allowed CSC to build on the commitment of the UN General Comment on Children in Street Situations, and to start programming to meaningfully shift these words into action with the support of our rapidly-growing network. Our work for street children has gone from strength to strength and key to this successful partnership is RND’s support for our model: immediate direct service to children in poverty, and the necessary work to also prevent children in the future from having to live on the streets. This combination of immediate response and preventative longer-term work is the backbone to all the work that we do with our project ‘Keeping Street Connected Children Safe’.
– Lucy Rolington, Senior Grants and Projects Officer