ABOUT STREET CHILDREN - GENERAL INFORMATION
CAS has chosen to work with street children. These children, aged between 0 - 18, are children who mainly live and work on the streets during the day and sleep on the streets at night. Sleeping on the street means sleeping out in the open air, on a thin mat or a thin piece of cardboard. Children often sleep together in groups to protect each other.
The main reasons a child will come to the street is usually related to family breakdown or other related social problems. CAS conducted a study on these issues and published the findings in the "Exodus" report 1999. Some children left their home because of abuse or domestic disharmony. In general, they didn't feel wanted and support in the home. Sometimes their parent(s) sent them to Accra to help with the family income. Other reasons are: urbanization, parental neglect, peer pressure, lack of basic infrastructure in the rural areas and the belief that things in the city must be better and offer more opportunities to their home towns.
Many children were attracted to Accra as they heard promising stories from friends and peers. In reality, street life is much harder than most children expect. All the street children struggle to take care of themselves. Most of them do not beg. They try to make a living by doing all kinds of jobs. The boys often earn money by shining shoes, pushing trucks and gathering refuse and carrying it to the dumpsite. Some street children are 'hawkers' which means they try to sell their wares (often small items like chewing gum) by moving around, especially by chasing vehicles. The girls often sell water, oranges and bread. Some children sell plastic bags at the market. You can also find a vast number of girls who carry loads of goods in bowels on their heads. These girls are called the "kaya yee".
Most children that CAS field workers meet are normal children, who like to play, fight and just enjoy their childhood. Unfortunately, unavoidable circumstances brought them to the street, but they do still play together even when they are on the streets.
Some of the girls earn the money they need to survive through prostitution. Men from the city will pay for the services as well as the street boys. The street girl is among the most vulnerable on the streets, and street boys will offer them some form of protection in return for sex. Not to mention the personal effect this has on a girl, it also means that they are at a high risk of getting pregnant. The boy will then deny all knowledge and the girl is left to bring up the very young street child on their own. Street girls are also at a heightened risk of becoming infected with STD's and STI's.
Even though drug use is not permitted at the Refuge, CAS' workers are very aware that many of the street children are on drugs; the children mainly use Marijuana - harder drugs such as glue sniffing or petrol sniffing is rare among the children in Ghana. One of the reasons the children give for using drugs is to give them the strength to get through the hard work they do. It can also ease the physical pain caused by heavy laboring jobs. CAS workers counsel the children who have been involved in drugs and prostitution, and work with them to find them a different path in life.
Some children are involved in pick pocketing. These activities bring them into contact with the police. A number of the police believe that street children are nothing more than thieves, addicts and prostitutes, or at the very least trouble makers. They sometimes wrongly accuse street children of committing crimes. There are many people throughout Accra who agree with this view of street children. CAS therefore works to prevent this kind of stigmatization. Most of the street children are normal and nice children, with their own strengths and qualities. They just try hard to survive and make the best they can out of their situation.