On Thursday 5th November, Chance for Childhood joined other practitioners, researchers and professionals in London for the Annual Research Conference of Consortium for Street Children. The conference brought together academics and NGOs to address issues relating to the identities of street children under the title “I move, therefore I am not”. Street children’s identities are often outlined by others and perceived to be fixed, so the conference aimed to break down these perceptions and explore the fluidity of these identities and how they can be constructed by street children themselves.
From Chance for Childhood we were able to bring our experiences and knowledge from working in East and Central Africa, but there were attendees representing projects and research from all over the world. The conference was therefore an excellent opportunity to share knowledge and expertise on issues regarding street children, who are some of the most vulnerable children in the world, in order to make future progress in this area.
In particular, we were excited to present our own research from Kisumu, Kenya, where we are helping street-connected children to get back into formal school and into supportive family networks. We found that over half the street-connected children assessed in our study had difficulties communicating, following instructions and in expressing themselves, and therefore recognise the need for children with street-connections to receive extra support to cater to their special needs and enable them to stay in or return to mainstream education.
Throughout the day, as well as observing panel discussions and presenting our research, we attended workshops. One of which we attended discussed conducting inclusive, participatory, child-centred research; this topic is significant as this year we adopt the new set of Global Goals with a heavy emphasis on including everyone in development, leaving no one behind.
At Chance for Childhood we understand the importance of working with children in a way that ensures their participation and contribution. We also take an intersectional approach to our work with street children, whereby we recognise that there are many different factors that have led to these children living the lives they do, and all these angles must be considered when assessing how best to approach supporting them. For us, this means that we are very aware of specific challenges that children with disabilities might face given the level of inclusiveness of her or his environment. However, we found that discussions at the conference were lacking in acknowledgement of the effects of disability on street children, despite the topic’s importance and gaining of recognition in the development sector. This confirms how important it is for us to work on our projects with street children, such as in Kenya, where we can take into account the many contributing factors in their situations, including disability and special educational needs, in order to most effectively reintegrate them into their communities and education systems.