SCEF’s open letter to Ministry of Gender on International Day for Street Children
Hon. Lariba Zuweira Abudu
Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection
P.O. BOX MBO 186, Ministries, Accra – Ghana
Dear Hon. Lariba,
PRIORITIZE INVESTMENT IN POLICIES AND INITIATIVES TO KEEP STREET-CONNECTED CHILDREN SAFE
I trust our letter finds you well. Hon Minister, I am addressing you today, as the Executive Director of the Street Children Empowerment Foundation (SCEF Int) to table before you our concerns and reiterate the plights and harm of children in street-connected situations and highlight progressive ways we can collaborate to keep them safe and protected.
It is totally impossible to walk or drive through the principal streets of Accra, without being approached by a child in street situation to render a service of either wiping the screens of cars, selling of water and other edibles or to blatantly beg for alms. The situation is even of much concern at night- some of these children seek for shelter at various lorry parks and markets, sidewalks, uncompleted buildings and Infront of shops, while others sleep in the open space, regardless of the dangers that stirs them directly in the face.
Whilst on the street, these children experience abuse, exploitation, stigmatization and criminalization as well as restrictions on access to essential services, such as healthcare, nutrition and education. Sadly, children in street situations do not have any trusted adult or structured institutions to rely on. Vulnerable girls who get abused sexually are most often left to their fate uncared for and sometimes without medical attention-due to high cost of medical examination.
The never-ending and cumbersome court proceedings amid other expenses prevents them from attaining Justice hence, their perpetrators are let loosed and unpunished- rather society stigmatizes them and sometimes points accusing fingers at the victims, blaming them for inviting such harm. This worrying phenomenon of street children is not peculiar to just Accra but also in cities and urban towns like Takoradi, Kumasi, Ho among others.
The International Day for Street Children (IDSC) which falls on April 12th, every year provides opportunities for various civil society groups and human rights organizations to spread awareness of the plights of children in street-connected situations throughout the world and provide for them a powerful voice so their rights are not ignored.
The day also presents an opportunity for the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection, government, social workers, non-governmental organizations and individuals advocating for the right and safety of children to reflect on the successes chalked in children’s (street) protection/issues, challenges identified and profess solutions and initiatives to reduce the harm.
We want to use this opportunity to ensure governments’ obligations to street-connected children are prioritized by highlighting the urgent need for the implementation of United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child’s General Comment 21 on Children in Street Situations (UNCRC GC 21), which among other objectives seeks to provide comprehensive and authoritative guidance to States on using a holistic, child rights approach to: prevent children experiencing rights violations and the lack of choices that results in them having to depend on the streets for their survival and development; and to promote and protect the rights of children already in street situations, ensuring a continuum of care and helping them to develop to their fullest potential.
To that end, we write to request you to take action to keep street-connected children safe by:
1. Fast-tracking the signing of the contract with the service providers for the commencement of the Ghana Education Outcome Project (GEOP) Lot 7.
2. Recognizing effective interventions to keep street-connected children safe, and provide adequate recognition and investment to maximize the impact of these interventions.
3. Implementing effectively the law to free medical care and support from domestic violence victims support fund.
4. Ensuring street-connected children’s access to a trusted adult or facility through the provision of high-quality training, guidelines and accreditation for street and social workers, whose expertise in upholding children’s rights and psychosocial wellbeing must be respected by governments.
Making sure teachers and healthcare workers have robust policies and practices in place to keep safe the street-connected children they come into contact with.
6. Government and other state institutions must offer assistance to CSOs/NGOs, that offer support to children in street-connected situations. We know time and resource constraints may seem to make these measures difficult to implement, thus with reverence to SDGs 17 which focuses on partnerships, we open our doors to collaborations with government and other state agencies to make the proposed measures achievable and UNCRC GC 21 a reality.
I hope you will take this opportunity to demonstrate our country’s commitment to protecting all children and to prioritize investment in policies and initiatives to keep street-connected children safe.
signed Paul Semeh
For more information and interviews contact Ophelia Allotey
Executive Assistant and Advocate