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Living the promise

Definition of Street Children

The United Nations has defined the term ‘street children’ to include “any boy or girl… for whom the street in the widest sense of the word … has become his or her habitual abode and/or source of livelihood, and who is inadequately protected, supervised, or directed by responsible adults.” Street children are also divided into two groups: those who live IN the street (spend all their time in the street), and those who live ON the street (those who return home at night). Meanwhile, The Cradle and The Undugu Society of Kenya - two organisations working to improve the life of children and youth - divide Kenyan street children into four categories. The first is children who work and live on the street full-time, living in groups in temporary shelters or dark alleys. The second category is children who work on the streets by day but go home to their families in the evenings. This category constitutes the majority of street children in the country. The third category is children who are on the streets occasionally, such as in the evenings, weekends, and during school holidays.

The fourth category is known as “street families”, children whose parents are also on the streets. The scavengers or “chokora” Nairobi’s street children are easily recognised with their trademark sacks slung over their backs, searching through dustbins. They are branded “chokora” or scavengers. In order to survive on the streets, young people often beg, carry luggage, or clean business premises and vehicles. Others earn some money by collecting waste paper, bottles, and metals for recycling. The children sometimes assist the city council cleaners in sweeping and collecting garbage. Eddy Omondy, a 15-year-old orphan who has been living in the streets for four years, told IRIN that he used to collect garbage, and help load and unload market goods, earning him up to 80 KSH (US $1) a day. Some earn their money in less honest ways, pick-pocketing or violent robbery. Girls are forced to resort to prostitution in order to get clothes or food. According to a 2004 report from The Cradle and The Undugu Society, they earn as little as 10 or 20 KSH ($0.30-0.50) for each client..