Young street children in Dhaka: perceptions and experiences of 6-8 year old children about life as street children in Dhaka city
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Children living in the street are an increasing phenomenon in developing countries. As in other developing countries, there has been a rise in street children population in the urban areas of Bangladesh. Street children all around the world are the most vulnerable and excluded in society. Their rights are continually violated. Life for street children is a painful experience. However, of most research on the situation of young adolescents, a very few studies analyze how life on the street is experienced by young children. Thus the objective of the study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of 6-8 years old street children about becoming and continuing as street children in Dhaka city as well as their felt needs and future expectations. This was an exploratory qualitative study for which the case study method was followed. Study area was Gubtali of Dhaka city. Data were collected through in-depth case studies and informal observation. The study used purposive sampling method in selecting the sample. Two groups of street children- "on the street" (who return to family at night) and "of the street" (who stay on the street) were selected, two in each category. Two were boys and two were girls. According to the findings of the study, poverty was the main underlying cause for choosing life on the street by the young children. Poverty was created due to broken family, being orphaned and homeless due to natural calamity. Lack of parental care was another cause. Moreover, some parents sent their children on the street for additional earning. The study found that all of the children studied earn either by begging or collecting wastes or by doing both. The study revealed that children of the street struggle more than children on the street for their survival. Though different organizations are working for street children, most of the services for them were out of their reach. It was found that children in the study did not consult doctor for any of their illnesses due to lack of money. It was also found that foods, shelter, education and health care were their common greatest needs. Most of the street children wanted to be educated and to work in the garments factory to earn a living. Children are the hope and future of our society, but street children and their future are at risk. Street children are often perceived in a negative light. Children are on the street not because of their fault but for the fault of society. The government and other stakeholders should implement the conventions on child rights as well as the national plan of actions to protect fundamental rights of children, including street children. In addition, services/ intervention programs initiated by GOs, NGOs and INGOs should be available for all young street children to ensure their rights, promote their wellbeing and to help them become self-supporting.