25 January 2014 - STREET KIDS


G'day folks,

I have often featured kids on my blog. Why not, eh? Well, today I feature some kids who do it tough every day through no fault of their own. They are kids from around the world. Check out these pictures and, next time you see your kids or grandkids, remember these kids. 

Why has violence against children risen on the international agenda, yet street children remain on the fringes? Michele Poretti looks at the politics of policymaking. Michele Poretti is a researcher at the children's rights unit at University Institute Kurt Bösch (IUKB) in Sion, Switzerland. 

 A research project, "Living Rights/Translations", found that over the past two decades, violence against children has come to dominate international efforts to promote children's rights. The evidence comes from organisations such as Unicef, who suggest that the number of children who are victims of violence has increased from 50 million in 1999 to possibly 1.5 billion in 2009 (pdf).

While voilence against children was becoming more prominent – particularly after the UN convention on the rights of the child was adopted in 1989 – issues such as street and/or abandoned children were becoming increasingly marginalised. To explain how, it is worth looking at the arguments that have shaped the respective destinies of the 'street child' and of the 'child victim of violence'. These provide useful insights into the logic behind setting international priorities.

 Advocates for street children speak of the multiple deprivations of rights and promote a holistic approach, where a child's civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are respected. As a result early NGO campaigns in the 1990s focused on achieving greater social justice, pointing in particular towards 'structural' forms of abuse. Children were seen as being failed by the economic and social policies of the state, with blame stretching even to structural adjustment programmes. With the adoption of the millennium development goals, an approach to development that focuses on the fulfilment of basic needs, all advocacy that challenging systemic forms of injustice became virtually redundant.

The anti-violence campaign, on the other hand, emphasises personal forms of abuse, such as sexual violence or corporal punishment, for which there is generally one culprit: the abusive adult. The roots of violence, it is claimed, can be found in social or cultural norms, such as patriarchy, that frequently condone or tolerate such harmful practices. Violence is also increasingly portrayed as the ultimate root cause of several other problems affecting children (pdf). As a result, the international community has focused on the prevention of violence through legislation and on promoting a somewhat vague "culture of children's rights" (pdf).

 In addition to the differences in how the issues were framed and advocated by NGOs, the UN has played an important role in shaping the policy around street children and children as victims of violence. Its study on violence against children and successive general assembly resolutions have led to a progressive broadening of the definition of violence. It has become a sort of umbrella term, which now encompasses a variety of previously unconnected or unrecognised forms of abuse, such as trafficking, harmful traditional practices or bullying (compare, for instance, the resolutions adopted in 2000 and 2007).

The problems with the anti-violence campaign

While the fight against violence is pertinent in many respects, its current predominance is problematic for at least three reasons. First, by pointing to culture and traditions, advocates allow states to easily eschew their responsibilities. Once appropriate national laws are adopted, national elites can encourage, often with the approval and support of international experts, the widespread dissemination of the culture of rights to "backward" communities and families. 

Second, the binary opposition between deviant cultures and the culture of rights – between people who are morally wrong and an enlightened minority who is right – can hardly lead to genuine appraisal of local knowledge. 

Third, by framing violence as an issue of cultural and societal tolerance, advocates isolate the phenomenon from its historical, socio-economic and political context.

Violence, as any other practice, arises from interrelated social, economic and cultural factors and it is unlikely that any meaningful change can be achieved without addressing the socio-economic conditions affecting children and their families.

Seizing opportunities

Since 2011, thanks to resolution 16/12 of the human rights council and a study by the UN high commissioner for human rights, street children are back on the international agenda. While this has provided some space for recognising the link between children's connections to the street, socio-economic inequalities and states' public policies, recommendations about how to tackle this complex issue remain vague and inconsistent.

Instead of promoting the interrelated and indivisible rights of children, the child rights project seems to have been largely diverted to promote a moral crusade against marginalised communities and families. The current economic crisis in the developed world is however opening up new spaces for critique. Will child rights advocates seize this opportunity to renew their critique of the economic and social policies that are pushing many children onto the streets?

Clancy's comment: Notwithstanding the fact that there are many people trying to do their best for these kids, including me, I do wonder how practical talkfests are. The best, most practical examples I have seen up close and personal, are those who actually take these kids in and do their best to feed, house, clothe and educate them. However, it is a constant struggle for those involved, but at least their kids are safe and off the streets.

Have you wondered how many of the kids depicted above are still alive? I have.

I consider it obscene when I look at the salaries of high flyers at the top end of town, the money paid to sports people, the money spent on cosmetics, money spent on space travel and to 'stars' in the movie industry et al. Yet, innocent kids are doing it tough throughout the world. 

Maybe sporting clubs should make it mandatory for their 'stars' to donate a percentage of their extraordinary salaries to any recognised facility that cares for street kids.

What a bloody disgrace in 2013! All kids, no matter who they are or where they are, deserve better.


I'm ...

Think about this! 
I'm sure it's on the mind of 
every kid depicted on this post.

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