Cairo conference urges action on behalf of Street Children

© UNICEF Egypt
UNCEF Egypt Representative Erma Manoncourt addressing the Reality and Dreams Event.

Cairo, February 8, 2005 – A combination of fresh thinking, unconventional measures and urgent action is necessary to ease the plight of thousands of children and adolescents living on the streets of Egypt's big cities. This was the central message from Children of the Street: Reality and Dreams, an event held in Cairo on Monday, February 7, 2005, under the auspices of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and organized by Hope Village Society, Caritas-Alexandria and UNICEF. Among the attendees were representatives of government, NGOs, private sector, media, celebrities, youth groups and some 40 street children.

Addressing the meeting, NCCM Secretary General, Ambassador Moushira Khattab, said street children had to be recognized as individuals with rights – to education, health care and protection. She said the current national strategy – launched in 2003 by the First Lady, Mrs Suzanne Mubarak – was founded on this principle.

In her comments, UNICEF Egypt Representative Dr Erma Manoncourt praised the initiatives being undertaken by NGOs like Hope Village Society and Caritas Alexandria, but added that more action was necessary.

"There is a need to change our perception of street children" said Dr Manoncourt. "We must encourage society and local communities to take a more active role in addressing their needs and to facilitate children's involvement in coming up with solutions to their problems."

© UNICEF Egypt
17 year old street girl Heba, holding her baby daughter, tells her story

A short drama entitled "I am a street-child" allowed its young performers to highlight the dangers they face on the street. The large audience attending the event – which included UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador, Mahmoud Kabil and leading actor Hani Salama – also heard personal testimony from 17 year old Heba and 13 year old Abdel Azeem about the reality of daily life on the street, and their hopes for a better future.

The second part of the day allowed working groups to tackle issues such as the risks facing children living in the street, ways of changing the negative perception towards street children held by Egyptian society; the special needs of street girls and mothers, and means to prevent the growth of the phenomenon. A working group of street children drew up proposals of their own.


Among the recommendations endorsed by the gathering were:

 Establishing counseling centres for street girls and mothers, to provide advice on issues such as registration of births and marriages;
 Creating channels for children's complaints such as a telephone hotline;
 Expanding the existing health insurance scheme for street children while providing better access to hospitals and clinics, especially for street girls;
 Encouraging the media to report on the street child issue in a more sustained manner to change society’s negative perception, while focusing on positive examples;
 Listening more to the views of the children themselves, so as to design initiatives better suited to their needs;
 Building stronger partnerships and networks between NGOs, media, youth organizations and, government in order to address the street children issue in a more comprehensive manner;
 Exerting greater efforts to prevent children from leaving home and going to the street through creation of mechanisms for early monitoring of children at risk at local level, family counseling centres and improved role of school social workers and committees to prevent dropout;
 Training those working with street children to gain the necessary skills to deal with the phenomenon in a more adequate manner;
 Learning from the experiences of other countries in dealing with street children-related issues;
 Revising the Egyptian Child Law and other legislation pertaining to children's rights, especially concerning issues of violence and abuse, and the registration of babies born to girl street children.
 Gathering more information on the situation of street children, particularly street girls, and establishment of a database.


For further information please contact:

 

Simon Ingram, UNICEF, Communication Officer / Cairo
singram@unicef.org
Tel: (202) 5265083-87 Ext 210 / 208
Fax: (202) 526 4218

 

 

 

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