Total Impact Africa
Operation No Child should call the street my Home
Why the program is important
Cameroon is a quickly urbanizing country, with a young population. More than half of the total population is under age 20. Yet the government is still to make availability of critical resources for the protection and improvement of the conditions of children a priority. According to UNICEF Cameroon [2009 Child Protection Fact Sheet] there were about 435 street children identified by the government in 2008 in Douala and Yaoundé. However with the absence of an official database the report notes that the number of children on the street is higher. As the level of poverty among rural households continue to rise, children in the marginalized Anglophone rural and sub-urban communities have become increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination, poverty and more recently conflict.
Through our network program we worked with care givers, schools, motor parks, market masters, companies, lawyers and parents to conduct public campaigns and raise awareness on modern day trafficking and the rights of children. This activity has been particularly effective in the reduction and prevention of 23 potential abuse cases of “off-the street children” and “on-the -street children”. Especially amongst children hawkers in Bolifamba Mile 16 village and Street 7 in Tiko. We are looking to expand our public campaigns and awareness raising activities into the Children for Life Caravan which will mobilize more lawyers, journalists, interested educators and regional social services to join in identification, advocacy and inclusion of “off-the-street” and “on-the-street” children into our back to life learning fellowship and shelter program. Permitting the OCS to roll out a more comprehensive data collection and reporting system of on the street children including those who are of school going age but not in school within 8 additional communities which we have identified.
we are planning to further extend the OCS’s children access to justice/legal assistance and family reconciliation activities by providing a reward incentive for child abuse, discrimination, exploitation and trafficking reported cases; so as to increase availability of data, enhance collective participation and monitoring. So far up to 554 street children have benefited from OCS activities in Bolifamba and Tiko. So far 7 have returned to school and 15 have been reconciled with their families.
How street children survive
Survival for street children means obtaining food, clothing and shelter, and protecting themselves against violence and other forms of abuse. It depends on: Personal strengths, The child’s resourcefulness (the ability to solve problems quickly and efficiently with available resources), and resilience (the ability to recover from shock, depression, and other difficult circumstances) determine his/ her survival. Resourcefulness and resilience would depend upon the child’s creativity, hard work, intelligence and concern for one another.
An important thing that determines the mode of survival is the people whom the child meets on the first day away from home, whether it is a group of car washers or drug traffickers. Being new to the situation he or she does not know that there are other ways of surviving on the street.
The peer group
Peers are individuals who share common interests and needs. Peer groups tend to be homogeneous in age and gender. The peer group has a strong influence on street children because of the child's need for acceptance, belonging and protection. The group often determines the process of change, socialization and development among street children by providing emotional and material support.
Street children often help in one another's survival. They often join together to form emotional and material support networks. The networks can range from a simple circle of friends to an organized, business network. Experienced street children teach new comers how to survive. Members of the group share food, clothing, shelter, information and psychoactive substances.
Street children may have to do many unhealthy or dangerous things to survive. Other street children, the police, and the adults who run the sex and drug trades may easily victimize them.
Other support mechanisms among street children
These mechanisms could be related to trade or activities in the streets and tend to be hierarchical. For example, there may be a leader and a spokesperson. The roles of group members can vary depending on their strengths and weaknesses. The members tend to protect each other in the face of gang wars, police arrests or other risky situations.