The little girl below inspired Khorasan to help street children. She is 9 years old and every day her older brother takes her first thing in the morning, on to the streets to sell chewing gum or books.
i) Work with the Government and specifically the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyred and Disabled (MoLSAMD) to gain their support by provision of existing buildings and staff e.g. existing orphanages and their personnel specifically for local street children. This includes premises, education and training courses that are being run in the Allaudin and Tahia Maskan Orphanages and also the Khair Khana Kindergarten room. The MoLSAMD has agreed to hire some staff to activate the Khair Khana Centre.
ii) To map existing provision offered by NGOs and other organisations such as Aschiana and other centres with a view to gaining commitment from them that they will offer places free or at subsidised rates to street children and also to parents of children who are working on the streets.
iii) To provide families of working children with a replacement income so that they maintain their basic needs during the period of the child's education or until the parents find work.
Kabul's poor families, even after over a decade of international intervention, are still reliant upon their children to make an income to enable them to meet the basic needs of food, warmth and shelter. In the winter, temperatures can drop to as low as minus 20 degrees, so the need for money is even greater. Children can be found shivering with runny noses and chapped cheeks and fingers holding out their hands outside restaurants and hotels. They clutch magazines and books and those braving the snow covered streets, dodge the skidding cars to bang on their windows thrusting chewing gum or other cheap goods at the occupants and asking them for money.
In 2008 UNHCR estimated that there were 50,000 to 60,000 street children in Kabul alone. Many of them are returnees whose families have found it difficult to reintegrate, cannot find reasonably paid occupation or affordable accommodation. The International Labour Organisation estimates that there are now 60,000 to 70,000 children working on streets in 2012. It is clear that unless the social and economic conditions for poor families change street children will be doomed to continue to work for years to come. The Khorasan approach is to support families financially until the adults can make their own living without having to rely on their children's income. Financial support to replace the children's income will only be made after Khorasan has made a thorough needs assessment.
Many of Kabul's families need to be supported in such a way if children are to be taken off the streets and placed in to full day education. It must be full time because if a child attends just two or three hours a day, the family will most likely still send them out to work for the rest of the day as it has become customary to do so. The adults need to understand that it is wrong to send young children out to work, but this can only be done if adults have access to education, training and income generating opportunities too. We need to reach a sustainable situation where children can have their right to a proper childhood and the adults can support them, instead of the reverse.
There are no official figures for the number of street children, but estimates made by humanitarian organisations working in Afghanistan demonstrate that despite the aid programmes and ministries responsible for children's welfare, the problem has not been solved, even partially. There needs to be political will to resolve the situation, and a culture change that accepts that relying on children to support a family is wrong. Power holders and donors should provide the means for long term, whole family support for sustainable living to enable children to attend full time education as of right.
Khorasan understands that the street children problem exists due to a complex mix of enduring war conditions, insecurities and existing national and international cultures with conflicting agendas and ideas. There is a prevailing attitude among many Afghans that believes child labour is acceptable and necessary because it is a survival strategy for the poor and provides cheap labour for powerful and unscrupulous business men. This has been an enduring and endemic problem for decades. Despite the billions of dollars of aid and thousands of aid organisations who are working with and for children, none of them have yet produced a coordinated strategy that works.
Khorasan will start by advocating for the prevention of children from working on the streets and to ensure that all children get education. Ministers need to be persuaded and encouraged to support the project so that the sight of children working on the streets is a thing of the past. Khorasan will encourage existing organisations, which provide education and training, to work together with each other and with the project, so that street children can take advantage of their existing programs.