Today marks International Women’s Day and here at Chance for Childhood we are celebrating the progress made by women so far across the world. But we are also remembering the situation of girls like Salima, who are falling through the cracks of society.
Salima was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country left in chaos by decades of conflict. Many children are orphaned and now living on the streets. Life for these children is unforgiving and lonely…
Salima had been fending for herself for many years before she got arrested aged just 15. Street children steal food to survive, or get into a fight for a spot to sleep at night. With no-one to help, breaking the law is not a choice but a question of survival.
Salima eventually ended up in an adult prison – a dirty, overcrowded and dangerous place for children. Abuse, malnutrition and brutality are common place. Children don’t know if or when they’ll see a lawyer… Shockingly only 15% are trialled by a children’s judge with legal representation.
Girls in conflict with the law face unique and complex situations. As Chance for Childhood’s CEO Anna-Mai Andrews explains, “The majority of girls in conflict with the law have suffered extreme trauma, having been abducted by militias and victims of violence. Rejected by their families and uneducated, they are more likely to enter abusive relationships or have to steal in order to survive. That’s why we remain determined to give girls a chance to fair justice and a future away from bars.”
Chance for Childhood runs award winning Justice for Children projects in DRC and Uganda. Part of our work consists of identifying children kept in long, unlawful detention and giving them access to free legal aid. We also offer psychological support and vocational training to give them an opportunity for a life away from the streets.
Anna-Mai concludes, “Whilst much remains to be done, we are also celebrating our wonderful women-led partners such as Children’s Voice in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Street Girls Aid in Ghana and the National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda who work alongside us to ensure that no child is forgotten.”