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Street Children Empowerment Foundation moves to protect vulnerable children

The Street Children Empowerment Foundation has urged Hon. Lariba Zuweira Abudu, Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, to prioritize investment in policies and initiatives to keep street-connected children safe.

According to the Foundation, it acknowledged the countless efforts by successive governments and the Ministry towards addressing the street situation through social protection programmes.

However, with the identified disconnect between law and practice, a lot more needs to be done in upholding, implementing, and exercising the rights and well-being of children, especially those in street-connected situations within the 2030 Agenda and the Children’s Act, 1998 Act 560, Child and Family Welfare Policy among other children’s protection policies.

This appeal was made in an open letter sent to the Minister of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, on International Day for Street Children (IDSC) which falls on April 12th, every year.

International Day for Street Children (IDSC) 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 them with a powerful voice so their rights are not ignored.

However, this letter signed by Paul Semeh the Executive Director of Street Children Empowerment Foundation revealed that children in street situations do not have any trusted adults or structured institutions to rely on.

As the Executive Director of the Street Children Empowerment Foundation (SCEF Int) to table our concerns before you, 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 a street situation to render a service of either wiping the screens of cars, selling water and other edibles or blatantly begging for alms.

The situation is even of much concern at night- some of these children seek shelter at various lorry parks and markets, sidewalks, uncompleted buildings, and In front of shops, while others sleep in the open space, regardless of the dangers that stir 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.

Vulnerable girls who get abused sexually are most often left to their fate uncared for and sometimes without medical attention due to the high cost of medical examination.

The never-ending and cumbersome court proceedings amid other expenses prevent them from attaining Justice hence, their perpetrators are left loose and unpunished- rather society stigmatizes them and sometimes points accusing fingers at the victims, blaming them for inviting such harm.

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This worrying phenomenon of street children is not peculiar to just Accra but also in cities and urban towns like Takoradi, Kumasi, Ho, and among others.

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 the 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 take action to keep street-connected children safe by:

  • Fast-tracking the signing of the contract with the service providers for the commencement of the Ghana Education Outcome Project (GEOP) Lot 7.
  • Recognizing effective interventions to keep street-connected children safe, and provide adequate recognition and investment to maximize the impact of these interventions.
  • Implementing effectively the law to free medical care and support from domestic violence victims support fund.
  • 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.
  • Ensure teachers and healthcare workers have robust policies and practices to keep the street-connected children they come into contact with safe.
  • Government and other state institutions must offer assistance to CSOs/NGOs, that offers support to children in street-connected situations. We know the time and resource constraints may seem to make t
  • “We know the 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.”

Source: Isaac Kofi Dzokpo

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