Chance for Childhood has been working in Ghana since 1999 to support street children and young women. We’ve been partnering with Street Girls Aid, a leading Ghanaian charity working with young women and children, for over 20 years to ensure greater economic empowerment for young street-connected mothers, and to provide children with critical access to quality early childhood development (ECD) services so they can have the best start possible.
Our focus is on ensuring children of young street mothers have access to quality inclusive pre-school education.
Despite steady economic growth, the wealth divide in Ghana is increasing. Many families are left struggling to provide basic necessities for their children and end up living on the streets. Changes to farming seasons and increasing land pressures force many families from poor, rural regions in the North to migrate to the capital, Accra. Once there, their lack of skills forces them into low-paid, dangerous labour.
Giving a better start in life to street toddlers and young children
This vicious cycle of poverty and neglect increases the likelihood of children ending up on the streets. Babies and toddlers grow up without running water, food or regular changing. They can suffer abuse, incur injuries in the market where their mum works, contract diseases and lack the pre-school education they need to pass the compulsory exam into primary school.
Without access to early childhood development services and an education, street children have little prospect of a better future.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
We support our local partner, Street Girls Aid, to run two ECD centres in Accra for children aged 0-6. Children who arrive at the centres are often underweight, so three nutritious meals a day ensure that children can grow and develop as they should. Clean water, soap and bins are also available in classrooms to educate children about sanitation.
Children don’t just learn basic literacy and numeracy, but also skills like listening, sharing, instilling a love of learning and a chance to explore their creativity and inquisitiveness. Older children are prepared to pass the compulsory primary school entrance exam.
Enrolling the children at the ECD centres also has a positive impact on mothers’ capacity to earn an income and the child‘s ability to develop motor, language and social skills.
Supporting street girls who have children of their own
57% of the 61,500 children and young people living and working on the streets of Accra are girls under the age of 18. Without an education, these girls often work as “Kayaye” (head porters), carrying heavy loads and earning as little as 8p for a day’s work. Poverty and a lack of a regular income leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, and many end up engaging in sex work to survive. Sexual violence and abuse on the streets are a regular occurrence. These conditions mean many street girls end up having children themselves.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Recently we rebuilt the Young Mothers Support Centre, after the old building had to be partially demolished. The new multi-purpose building provides critical urgent support for pregnant street girls and vulnerable young mothers, along with a training centre and a creche.
Like the ECD centres, the Young Mothers Support Centre provides a safe haven away from the streets. This Centre is the only one of its kind in Accra, offering pregnant street girls and young mothers invaluable anti-natal and post-natal services, counselling and emotional support, meals and various types of vocational training including catering, dress making, hairdressing.
A comprehensive parenting training is also provided to young street mothers to equip them with the right knowledge, attitude and skills to care for their children and support their education. As a result, the use of corporal punishment as discipline is greatly reduced.
In the past I used to worry a lot having my child strapped on my back the whole day in the hot sun whilst carrying heavy loads. I used to have severe back pains and cannot work for longer hours. But now when I send my child to the school I am comfortable that he is in a safe environment learning and playing until I go back for him.
Our response during COVID-19
Lockdowns have had a particularly negative affect on street children, many of whom have become displaced and have difficulty accessing food. Street Girl Aid have had to close the Young Mothers Support Centre and the ECD centres.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
We’re working with all partners at both organisational and project implementation levels to ensure we can all better adapt to the changes brought on by the crisis. With Street Girls Aid, we have been focused on completing the construction of the new Young Mother’s Support Centre which is bigger and can therefore house more girls whilst maintaining social distancing rules. The need for such a safe space for vulnerable young mothers and their babies is greater now more than ever. In the meantime, to address more immediate needs, through our Response Fund Street Girls Aid are providing food supplies for 150 vulnerable pregnant women, young mothers and children who would have been able to access help at the Support Centre.
Additionally, we’re providing PPE (including soap, sanitisers and face masks) through our Response fund as well as producing and distributing masks.
Post COVID-19 Recovery Plan
Chance for Childhood is working with all partners to develop bespoke post Covid-19 project recovery plans that are responsive to both changing project and organisational contexts, with the ultimate aim of ensuring greater resilience to future shocks.