I have seen for myself and on documentaries in the media how children beg for alms and others hawk on the roads of Accra. This is equally evident in other major cities in Ghana and other African countries. Of course, these children are exposed and vulnerable to diverse societal dangers because it is unsafe for them to be criss crossing busy roads as a means of survival.
One day en route home from work, in the busy city of Accra, when I saw these children through the window of a vehicle, it triggered a train of thoughts in my mind; I wondered what had happened to the rights every child had to education, what the future holds for them, whether their parents endorsed or even sent them. It hit me that it is highly unlikely for the children to have unilaterally made the decision of going cup in hand or hawking by themselves. Obviously, and or most probably, someone else did. Someone who should protect and secure their future directly or indirectly sent them there; their parents, their communities and governments or a combination of two or more of them. However, the blend is, I asked myself, isn’t every human entitled to some basic rights and dignity?
The quest for the respect of basic human rights beckons
But then it occurred to me that the question of human rights is one that is frequently and loudly talked about but least heeded to in the modern world. Many people all over the world parade themselves as paragons of virtue in the promotion and protection of the rights of every human person irrespective of their geographic or demographic variation. And in the same breadth turn around to put up practices that are at variance with their words. While some cultural practices like female genital mutilation, cruel widowhood rite, child betrothal and marriage, were deemed outmoded and subsequently denounced and discarded, other forms of insidious abuses like modern sex trafficking, child neglect and denial of girl-child education are taking shape and stealing lives from young people especially children.
Few people truly remember to put their money where mouths are with regards to the rights of others. Why else will children of school going age be left out on streets and others put through modern sex trafficking and some working for people as cheap laborers to feed their families when they are supposed to be in school? How else should we explain the enlistment of children as combatants?
The blanket of freedom and human rights that some governments provide are too skimpy to cover all the vital parts of their citizens. Children and women and other minorities who have their basic rights stripped off do not have any hope to hold on to. Some, especially children, grow up to be unable to integrate themselves into society, thereby resorting to activities that are harmful to themselves and everyone else. Hopelessness can rot a society from within.
Education as a basic human right needs to be given more consideration
The right to education I believe is one of the most basic rights that should never be violated. For when one is denied education, the foundation of their life becomes too frail which paralyses all the efforts that are required to get an opportunity in life. Ignorance does not just undercut the dignity and natural entitlement of a person; it is a fertile breeding grounds for a host of unsavory consequences that can be avoided through education.
As an individual, I believe we can all in a little way contribute to the advancement of our communities and nations by lifting others who cannot lift themselves up. The desire to impact lives and put smiles on the faces of others in my sphere of contact, saw me undertaking various human rights activism campaigns for child rights on streets. During such campaigns, I helped ease the plight of several street children by providing relief items and educating people on the need to keep their children in school. And the point is not to gloat over my little efforts, I just want to offer them as a point of reference for anyone who baulks at the idea of rendering help to those who genuinely need it.
It may feel too distant for people who have their children securely sitting behind the desks in classrooms to try to pursue the welfare of other children. And it is fair to say everyone should carry their own cross, but the reality is that we cannot afford to give up on any child. Whatever happens to the fate of any child enriches or impoverishes us all. We all have stakes in the lives of one another because our fates are woven into a single garment of destiny. No one can securely insulate themselves from the consequences of the adverse implications of abused children and others.
Our nation would become a better place when we begin to feel and think that every child is our child and the future of our community, nation and even the world at large depends on we as individuals investing in the little ones growing up.
While it’s worth noting that the greatest responsibility lies within the ambit of the government to provide for these street children, it’s also true that the government cannot solve all problems and instead of blaming the government for every misfortune in our country, we can all contribute to the solution in our own small way by taking up the responsibility to impact the lives of the young ones around us.
I will end by saying that pointing fingers does not make anyone a problem solver, what we need is solution minded people that act to secure the potentials and future of street children. Therefore, we need to shift our mind from problems pointers to solutions providers. This is not the time to dwell so much on the “why” but invest our resources and energies on the” how” to turn our challenges into opportunities for a brighter future.
About the author
Samira holds a bachelor’s degree in law at Central University, Ghana. She is passionate about women and children empowerment and has over the years, undertaken various human rights activism campaigns in villages and streets. Samira has also gained a vast worth of experience working in both governmental and non-governmental organisations. Currently, she is working at WACSI as a program assistant for Capacity Development unit whilst preparing towards pursuing her Master’s in human Rights Law