New Internationalist

So you want to help?

Issue 377

1 Join the dots

Realize that the unequal global economic system is crushing the poor. The cash worth of ‘marginal’ people keeps dropping. As it does so, their very lives get devalued. Children are often forced on to the streets by family dysfunction, but in the Majority World the root cause of such dysfunction is usually soul-destroying poverty. Day by day the numbers of children on the street are rising.

Any effort you make to raise your voice against inequality is a step in the right direction.

Further reading: Global Call to Action Against Poverty which includes the
Make Poverty History campaign and Jubilee Debt Campaign

2 Children have rights

Photo: Paul Smith / Panos Pictures
Children from the Bal Mazdoor Union (for working and street children) demonstrating in Delhi for the rights of child workers. Photo: Paul Smith / Panos Pictures

In theory all children have their basic rights protected by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (except in the US and Somalia, which have refused to sign up). These include:

the right to survival;
the right to develop to the fullest; and
protection from abuse and exploitation.

The agency most capable of safeguarding these rights – the government – is the one that often looks the other way. Governments need reminding at every opportunity of their duties.

Lend your support to Earth Action’s campaign to end violence against street children

UNICEF UK is aiming to raise £5 million ($9.5 million) to protect ‘at risk’ children from abuse and exploitation: www.endchildexploitation.org.uk

Find out about children’s rights and read NGO reports submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child at the Child Rights Information Network

3 Support street children’s activism

In Brazil
Brazil has huge numbers of street children (estimates range from 7 to 30 million). They face appalling violence; killings are commonplace. Movimento Nacional das Meninhas i Meninhos da Rua (The National Movement of Street Girls and Boys) is a rallying force demanding rights and participation in public policies. It is active in 24 states, with more than 5,000 street children affiliated to it.

In India
The Butterflies initiative operates in the capital, New Delhi, and aims to organize street children to make their own decisions and solve their own problems. Among the various projects are a children’s council where issues get discussed and activities planned, a child workers union (see photograph above) and a newsletter produced by the kids, plastered around the city telling passers-by how they see things. Butterflies, U-4, FF Green Park Extension, New Delhi 110 016 Tel: +91 11 616 3935 Email:

In Africa The African Movement of Working Children and Youth has a presence in 20 countries and presses for better working conditions for young people.

4 Reach out

The most immediate help you can give is to contribute to one of thousands of organizations working to assist street children in ways large and small. This assistance ranges from street education, vocational training, legal support, healthcare, temporary shelters and free meals, to some of the fun things like games and drama that should be a part of childhood. While these agencies’ efforts can sometimes turn children’s lives around, they will be the first to admit that they cannot compensate for government inaction. You can raise or donate money or offer your skills and time. Be aware that charities are like the humans that work for them – they have their own agendas and can be less than perfect. Balance this knowledge against the value of their work. Do a little research to find one that suits your own ideals best.

Make a start by looking at the member organizations of the Consortium for Street Children

Another handy list is available from Child Rights Information Network

5 Respect

Street children face constant discrimination. Offer them something different – your respect.

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