There are over 250,000 children living on the streets of Kolkata. This is where they are born, where they try to survive and in many cases – and it breaks my heart to say this but it’s important we don’t gloss over this – where they die.
Unless they are offered a real chance for change.
One of the challenges Hope Foundation struggles with is some of the misconceptions that exist around street children. While Hope Foundation focuses on Kolkata and India, let’s look big picture for this post as we break down some of the myths and preconceptions people make about street children.
It’s about arming ourselves and the people who can help with the right information so nothing gets glossed over or swept under the carpet.
Myth There are 100 million street children in the world
Buster UNICEF estimated there were 100 million street children a decade ago in 2005. But data is not collected by the UN or any other international body on their numbers so we don’t really know. What we DO know is any amount is unacceptable.
Myth Street children only exist in poor countries
Buster Street children can be found in most countries, rich or poor. There are reports of street children in countries and regions where social and economic inequalities are high. While the nature and degree of children’s connections to the streets in richer countries may be different to those in developing countries, their experiences of violence and abuse is the same.
Myth Children are on the streets because of family breakdown
Buster Unfortunately, it’s not as cut and dried as this. Yes, children whose families are impacted by death, poverty, mental illness, domestic violence, abuse and drug use are more likely to end up homeless but other reasons can include the enticements of apparent freedom, financial independence, friendships, peer pressure and adventure. However wrong those perceptions are, they are ‘pull’ factors for some children who decide to live on the street.
Myth Street children are boys
Buster Evidence does suggest fairly consistently that 75% to 90% of children living on the streets in many countries are boys but this is not universal. A study in Ghana showed a much more even split between girls and boys. Mexico also has a more even spread of girls and boys amongst those working and living on the streets.
Myth Street children are criminals
Buster To earn a living, survive or spend large amounts of time on the streets, children may need to use tactics different to those used by other children. They may beg or run errands, sell goods and services legally or illegally. What they’re doing is trying to survive. In criminalising survival behaviours or not taking account of the reasons behind children’s involvement in criminal activities, society stigmatises and alienates street children.
The thing to remember is that evidence suggests that children who are ‘rescued’ from the streets, rather than supported through a process of gaining access to services and support, often return to the streets because underlying challenges have not been resolved.
The Hope Foundation does this through providing access to education, medical services, protection homes and guidance and support. Through that process, those underlying challenges – poverty, abuse, peer pressure, illness – whatever they may be are also addressed.
While short term the Hope Foundation aim to get the children off the streets, their projects and strategies such as the educational coaching centres, vocational training centres, residential homes, mobile clinics and the Hope Hospital are all about long term transformation and giving any child a true chance at change.
We love knowing how our Moeloco flip flops are helping take these children off the streets and giving them access to education which is the most high-impact way to stop poverty.
Click here to purchase your own pair and know that your ethical shopping is helping to make a difference and bring change and hope to the precious street children of India.