Street children in the Machakos County in Kenya are pushed onto the streets by desperation and a self-belief that they have nowhere else to go. A growing amount of these street children end up spending their lives in institutions - that has shown to have negative effects on the children’s well-being, rights, and opportunities in the future. Among the street children being institutionalized a lot end up in ‘correctional’ facilities, children’s homes, etc. without contact to their family and community.
Positive Life Kenya (PLK) has been working with this group of children in the Machakos for the past eight years, including activities focused on rehabilitation, family tracking, and especially providing basic services such as food, cloth and access to education for the most vulnerable children.
However, Positive Life Kenya has discovered that the strategy of delivering services is not sustainable in the long run nor does it address the root causes of why street children end up on the streets and in institutions. In Machakos County, most children living on the streets are predominantly there as a result of poverty and poverty-related issues that includes violence, abuse, neglect and abandonment by their families. A study done by UNICEF showed that over 76% of children in Kenya had experienced a form of violence, be it sexual, physical, or emotional.
Another crucial reason for children leaving their family and community is the stigmatization and discrimination connected to HIV/AIDS – either if one or both of the parents are infected or of the child itself is infected. A key reason connected to this stigma are harmful cultural practices such as genital cutting and early marriage.
This forces, especially young girls, to leave their families to protect themselves. All of these above-mentioned reasons push children onto the streets and potentially into institutions that can provide them with the essentials that they need to survive. Although, at the surface this looks like a better option, many studies have shown the harmful effects on children growing up at institutions and a movement towards family-based care has been seen in Africa the past years.
In this pilot project, Positive Life Kenya (PLK) and 100% for the Children (100%) is trying out new strategic ways of addressing the problem with children moving to the streets and into institutions – particularly in the Machakos county. Therefore, the overall objective with this pilot project is to strengthen the capacity of PLK to be able to plan and carry out sustainable activities addressing the root causes of why children leave their families to move to the street.
The empirical experience and generated knowledge collected through testing these new strategic approaches will be used in a co-creation process with other like-minded NGO’s, to enable them to act united on this matter and, with time, to advocate and affect policy makers in Kenya to address the problem differently than today, where Kenya relies a lot on institutionalization.