'People don't care whether we live or die' - Violence against children in the home and on the street
On Saturday 11th December the Amnesty International Children's Human Rights Network and the Consortium for Street Children organised a morning of short films and discussions with children's rights activists from around the world on the topic of violence against children in the home and on the street.
The event began with a series of extracts from films by True Vision, showing children's human rights issues around the world. These clips included children sniffing glue on the streets in Guatemala, street children in Mumbai, children affected by the drug addictions of those around them in Bradford, children imprisoned in Mongolia and street children in Zimbabwe. The clips were very moving and set the scene for the talks and discussions to follow.
David Maidment, Amnesty UK Child Rights Advisor, chaired the event and began by talking briefly about the work that the Children's Human Rights Network does – with news, actions and events available on the network's webpages. David also spoke about a recent EU meeting he attended, where issues raised included the exclusion of Roma children from schools in Slovakia and the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Europe. It was encouraging to hear that David had spoken to the Human Rights Adviser to the Slovakian Deputy Prime Minister, and discovered that the Amnesty campaign on the exclusion of Roms children from schools has helped to put the issue on the agenda in Slovakia and hopefully we will begin to see changes as it is addressed.
Stepping Stones Nigeria
Gary Foxcroft, Founder and Director of Stepping Stones Nigeria spoke about the work that his charity does defending and upholding the rights of children in the Niger Delta. A particular issue which the charity is confronting is accusations of child witchcraft, which can lead to the children being abandoned or even killed. Gary explained that children who are accused of being witches are often orphans or children who have lost one parent, orr can be described in any way as 'different'.
There are many reasons why these accusations are made and why it is such a difficult issue to address, such as: the entrenched belief, held by many in the area, that children can be witches; the cultural media, especially Nollywood films, which reflect this belief; the use of spiritual explanations for misfortune, including the impact of the oil industry in the area; religious profiteering; poverty and lack of education, and a lack of awareness of children's rights.
Work taking place in the Niger Delta includes rescuing children; providing rehabilitative services such as healthcare, education and counselling; reuniting children with their parents if appropriate; and re-orientating the way communities, police and government think about children and promoting awareness of children's rights.
Gary called for Amnesty's help in tackling the harassment of child rights defenders in the area. He explained that they often face opposition with events invaded and staff harassed and arrested. It is clear that the child rights defenders working to protect the rights of children in the Niger Delta need our support.
Railway Children – 'Off the Radar' Research
Andy McCullough from the Railway Children welcomed the opportunity to speak about Britain's street children. Andy told us about the Railway Children's 'Off the Radar' research which aimed to gather stories from children who had spent time on the streets. The research only sought children who had spent over 4 weeks on the streets and interviewed 103 young people (although more potential participants fitting that criteria were available). The interviews revealed that 100% of the children had used drugs (the youngest aged 9) and many had experienced violence and were normalised to shocking levels of violence. One tenth of the children had experienced sexual abuse at home. whilst more had experienced such abuse on the streets. Three quarters were not receiving or accessing services. Indeed, few services are available for Britain's street children when and where they are needed.
Andy argued that with many projects designed to help street children facing financial crisis in the current economy-driven political climate, street children must not be allowed to slip off the radar. Andy challenged us to find out more about the situation via the Railway Children (and the Off the Radar Report available on the website) and to ask our MPs what local authorities are doing and what services are available. You can find contact details for your local MP and councillors here. Andy can be contacted via the Railway Children website and is willing to talk any of us through the series of questions we can put to our MPs and councils to ensure that Britain's street children are not forgotten.
AMOS Trust – Street Children World Cup 2010
Chris Rose from the AMOS Trust was our final speaker and told us about the Street Children World Cup. He explained the difficulties faced by street children throughout the world, with few services available to them and the children themselves often being blamed.
Chris explained that the AMOS Trust is a small organisation which worked in South Africa during apartheid and remained afterwards, focussing upon the plight of street children. Street children were frequently swept off the streets or rounded up because their presence makes cities look bad, and it was clear that this would increase with the FIFA world cup and related media attention.
An international campaign was to address the situation – and it was from this that the idea of the Street Children World Cup came. So, in March 2010, 8 teams of street children from around the world competed in the first Street Children World Cup in Durban. The children were welcomed and helped by a number of partner organisations in South Africa and all of the children proved to be excellent ambassadors for the cause, showing they were able to work together and enjoy each other's company, even despite having different languages.
While the Street Children World Cup was taking place the rounding up of street children in Durban continued and was captured by the media. After evidence of the rounding up of street children was put forward, there was a change in policy, as it became apparent from the Street Children World Cup that there could be positive PR in working with Street Children, and no rounding up of children took place during the FIFA World Cup.
During this time a Youth Participation Conference was held with the teams of street children, with the children setting the agenda and sharing their stories. From this came the Durban Declaration – a call to action from the children themselves.
The Street Children World Cup will take place again in 2014 in Brazil, the location of the FIFA World Cup, and Chirs encouraged us all to use the Street Children World Cup as a tool to argue for the rights of street children.
The session finished with an opportunity for questions and discussion. A number of issues were raised during this discussion, including the question of what Amnesty can do to further promoted children's rights worldwide and the current work of the children's human rights network. It was encouraging to see so many people interested in children's human rights and getting involved with the work of the network.
If you are interested in children's human rights then please get involved:
- If you would like to sign up to Amnesty's Children's Human Rights Network please visit our webpage and register online with myamnesty. Once you have registered visit the subscriptions section of your profile to sign up to CHRN Newsletters.
- Visit Amnesty's Children's Human Rights Network webpages regularly for actions, news, resource and events.
- Visit this blog for posts and discussion on children's human rights and leave your comments.
- Connect with the Amnesty – International Children's Human Rights page on Facebook.
- Follow the Amnesty UK Children's Human Rights Network on Twitter.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.