RESEARCH ON THE LIFE OF STREET CHILDREN IN KATHMANDU
Street children of Kathmandu are the children’s sect, the product of our cultural weaknesses, and under managed governance. People look at them with different perspectives because their social identity is very different from our understanding of the way of life. I have brought some reasons, why the street children choose to leave their house and living in the street. Though the lack of sufficient statistics, I have tried my best to gather information and statistics found in the Kathmandu valley. Then, I focused on the psychosocial lifestyle, economic lifestyle, educational lifestyle, and social contexts and conflicts of the street children of Kathmandu. The abuse of street children is another issue I have tried to bring in this writing. These children are being physically, psychologically, socially, and sexually abused. This research was done around 2015 to 2016 with the available former resources.
- Social identity of the street children in Kathmandu
There is no such specific meaning of the street children but they are called it so because most of the time they live their lives in the street. If someone has to meet them, certainly s/he has to search them in the street of Kathmandu. The street children are called by so many other titles such as Khaate (dirty), Magne or Bhikhari (beggar), Anath (orphan), Asahaya (helpless), and Bewarise (abandoned). “Street Children are discriminated against by individuals from other social classes because they are diﬀerent; they don’t live in a house, they don’t enjoy family protection, and they have to work and survive in dire conditions.” But they live in a group and enjoy their life in unity with friends.
- The earlier life of the street children
The family background of the street children differs according to their social, religious, cultural, educational, and geographical circumstances. The earlier life of the street children before becoming street children is also very important for us to know the reason why they started to live in the street.
Most of the children were a student before becoming street children. Usually, their parents are poor farmers or laborers, factory workers, and old or sick. When their parent becomes ill and unable to fulfill the house expenses, the children have to bear the responsibility of the family.
- Reasons for leaving the houses
CPCS has pointed out some major reasons for leaving the houses. Obviously, the serious conflicts in the family are the major key to force them to leave the houses. Furthermore, Quoc Duy Tran, the fieldwork expert, explains that the major reasons for leaving the houses are absence (death or separation) of parents, illiterate parents, loss of the land and houses, violence at home, the dream of becoming wealthy in cities, the desire of becoming independent and seeking the better jobs in the cities. They have been regularly beaten at home, perhaps by their drunken father or sometimes by other relatives. Their parents have sent them out to earn money on the streets. They have left home by choice to join friends or find freedom on the streets. Their father divorces and re-marries and the stepmother does not want the children. They have been abandoned by their parents or left in the care of a relative who does not really want them. Their families are dislocated by civil war and the children have to work in street to sustain their living. There is huge ethical pressure on the present political leaders to manage the lives of street children because they led the civil war in Nepal for decades that created thousands of broken families, broken careers, and trampled dreams.
- Reasons for living in the street
Not only is leaving the house but there are also so many factors that motivate the street children to live in the street. According to the WHO, “Street children are the casualties of economic growth, war, poverty, loss of traditional values, domestic violence, physical and mental abuse. Every street child has a reason for being on the streets.” We have a great challenge to eliminate every reason that motivates the street children to establish their livelihood in the street.
“The empirical research of CPSC has figured the percentage that the 65% of respondents stated that they came to the street to look for a job, 55% stated that they had dreamed of coming to Kathmandu, and 54% came to Kathmandu under the pressure of friends. 51% of respondents cited violence at home as a reason for leaving home. Only 27% of respondents cited lack of food at home as a reason for leaving and only 12% cited the political situation as a reason for coming to the street. Respondents were also asked whether they were attracted to Kathmandu to stay in an organization. 29% of respondents stated that they came to Kathmandu to stay in an NGO.”
- Profile of street children in Kathmandu
Francise Remington said that over 120 million children live in the cities and towns of South Asia. District Development profile of Nepal 2010/11 shows that there are 5, 21,876 students of primary, lower secondary level, and secondary level within the Kathmandu valley.
According to Krishna Kumar Thapa, “In Kathmandu valley alone, Voice of Children and CPCS estimate the number of street children as approximately 900 to 1200. They are living, sleeping, and working under the open sky and surviving without family support. They are living with peers, working as beggars and rag pickers.” But the District Development profile of Nepal 2010/11 shows neither the statistics of street children nor the lifestyle and distribution of the facilities to the street children. The street children are 0.23% out of the total school children in the Kathmandu valley. That means there are 23 street children out of every 10,000 children in Kathmandu valley.
Mr. Amik Serchan, the deputy prime minister for the Health Government of Nepal states that “while we know that street living children are not a problem exclusive to Nepal, this should not give us an excuse to give up on them. They are our nation’s sons and daughters, they are children, and as such, they deserve the same opportunities offered to any of us, they need our help and, they deserve our respect.” But the behavior of the government and government officers is far strange from behaving their own sons and daughter.
“Remington F. (1993)14 identified that the number of “street children” in India and Nepal is increasing at an alarming rate because of urbanization. Each year an estimated 150,000 young Nepalese girls are sold as prostitutes in India where the number of working children under age 14 has grown from 13.59 to18.17 million during 1981-90. Indeed, these figures may be unrealistically low, with actual numbers of street and working children in India at 44 million. Street children are at risk of exploitation by adults in hazardous, or even banned, jobs.”
- Lifestyle of the street children in Kathmandu
S.H. Kollerand C.S. Hutz observed that millions of children can be found working and, sometimes, living on city streets around the world. Although they all look alike, a distinction must be made between children actually living on the streets and those who go home in the evening. Some studies have indicated that living on the streets is harmful because of the exposure to addictions, violence, and exploitation. UNESCO has categorized the street children as Children on the street who works in the street but go back home at the end of the day and as Children of the street who works and lives in the street.
There are some normal stages and experiences that every person has to face from childhood. In terms of the street children, they have passed through the ages but they will never experience the many stages from childhood. Definitely, this will make them a very different person in the future, probably not a good and healthy person. Another danger lies behind this truth is that they will lead the many street children in the next generation according to their lifestyle.
- Psychosocial lifestyle
UNESCO states that “Being a street child means going hungry, sleeping in insalubrious places, facing up to violence and sometimes becoming an expiatory victim; it means growing up without companionship, love, and protection; it means not having access to education or medical services; it means losing all dignity and becoming an adult before even having been a child” We shouldn’t let it go as if we haven’t known it ever before. We all should pressurize our government and concerning social organizations to do the exact task for the reason they are unified.
- Economic lifestyle
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by Nepal on 14 September 1990 states that every child has “the right to a standard of living adequate for his/her physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development”.
I have seen the street children working as beggars, rag pickers, vehicle conductors, street vendors, illegal work, restaurant cleaners in many places of Kathmandu valley since my childhood. Some of them earn good money and some can’t but there is a very high risk of being misused by others.
“Of those respondents who worked, the majority (96%) reported spending money to buy food. After food, the next priority was drugs, with 67% reporting spending income on drugs. 60% reported giving money to friends. 38% of these respondents reported giving money to their family while 11% reported spending money on their education.” The rehabilitation for addicted children is an emergence task.
- Educational lifestyle
Most of the street children are school dropouts. If the service organization took responsibility to take care of them and provided the educational facility also. But many of the street children, who have stayed in street for more than 2 years, are unstable and not attentive in school because they are enjoying the street life rather than living under someone’s control.
- Social context and conflicts
Since most of them are addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, hash, glue, tabs, and injections, their social life has been very different than the normal people of society. The addiction is the main cause that leads them to earn the money for the use of drugs at any cost. Because of their common interest, hobbies, and needs, they perform so many tasks in the group. As the result, gang culture has been prospered among them. They can be easily misguided in illegal activities. Even the political authorities in Nepal are using them as the weapon for the strike and banda (Closing all the financial activities all over the nation).
- Abuse of the street children in Kathmandu
The street children are highly vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. Their vulnerable conditions in the street, increase in the cases of pedophilia, and the expanding sex market appears to be some of the major causes of sexual abuse and exploitation of street children. CWIN (2001) indicates that foreign pedophiles abuse about 5% of the street boys in Nepal. There is no available information on Nepali pedophiles so much so that presently all pedophile activity is considered synonymous with foreigners only. The situation of pedophilia is further compounded by the lack of national legislation on the issue, and as a result, it is speculated that Nepal may increasingly become a hotspot for pedophiles and sex tourists.
- Physical abuse
The street children are being physically abused by the uncivilized people in the Kathmandu valley. Burns and lacerations are as common as severe beating. According to the Research in 2007 by CPCS and Voice of Children, of those abused over 96% reported having been abused by a male, while 55% reported having been abused by a female.
- Psychosocial abuse
According to the Research in 2007 by CPCS and Voice of Children, in the majority of cases, children reported this happening ‘sometimes’ or ‘regularly’. Of those who had been ridiculed, discriminated, or denigrated more than 95% reported this happened more than once, with over half (53%) reporting this happened on a regular basis. Of those who had been threatened, scared, or terrorized over 85% reported this happening more than once with over 30% reporting this happened on a regular basis.
- Sexual abuses
Child sexual abuse may include fondling a child’s genitals, masturbation, oral-genital contact, digital penetration, and vaginal and anal intercourse. Children can be abused without physical contact, such as by exposure, voyeurism (getting sexual pleasure from watching naked children) and child pornography, use of obscene language, and also referred to as non-contact abuse. At the same time, street children are also entertaining and involving in sexual activities. So many times, habitual sin and hobbies make the person blind to the numerous mistakes and crimes.
- Labor abuse
Most of the street children are occupied and forced to work for very less labor charge with heavy-duty. Many children can’t resist the offensive behavior of their employers. Political parties also are using them for unnecessary political activities.
- Reaction towards abuses
The whole society isn’t offensive against street children. We have to understand the bitter truth that there is a group of the sect of people who are meant to suffer others especially weak and helpless such as street children. We can take help from social organization and provide help when it is necessary
- Other risks in the life of street children in Kathmandu
Street Children are a very sensitive children group who are at a very high probability of risk of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, other common diseases, and several health problems. Due to the lack of personality development, they are mistreated by the general people. I think they are the most victimized group in our society rather than others.
- Impact of the organization among street children in Kathmandu
One of my friends, who is working among the children was telling me that there are more social organizations in Kathmandu valley than the total number of street children. Sarcasm! But it is the bitter truth and reality of our Kathmandu that there are lots of organizations but there is a minor impact in changing the perspective, worldview, and lifestyle of the children. After knowing so many attitudes and weaknesses, we can work to change their lifestyle. But there are some social organizations, who are working with the government and society to decrease the number of street children to zero. I hope this day will come soon.
Many things we talk about the negative aspects of society, street children, and government, aren’t true always. We have to maintain the constructive criticism of other’s contributions. There are lots of ways which we all need to accept to edify the lives of street children. According to my observation, the biggest problem of street children is that they have set their habit of living in street under nobody’s control. The secret of the failure of any organization is just because they couldn’t succeed to control the street children for a long time. There may be scientific and psychological behavior that needs to be adopted. We need to remember them in our prayer and teach them the word of God and compare the life of the first man Adam who had no houses, no physical parents, no facilities, and no good friends at all. He was very similar to street children. Adam lived a life just like the street children. Though human civilization continued and prospered in the course of time.
There are lots of ways and tasks, we have to learn and teach them. The street children need confirmation about honesty, loyal character, loving nature, parenting behavior, and friendly nature. They have also the hunger for our love, care, and nurture. If we ignore them once, then they will get one thousand reasons to ignore us and our way of living. However, if we are accepting them as they are, then somehow we will be able to influence them from our life in a Godly way. Because the Word of God also teaches us to take care of poor and weak people in our society. This is the mandate given by Christ to all of us. We can’t overlook Jesus’ commandment.
(Research Paper was submitted on 15th June 2016 AD to Professor Dr. Richard Lewis; Now it has been updated at beginning of 2021)
Child Protection Centres and Services (Nepal), ed. The Street Children of Kathmandu: Study, Approaches, and Comments on the Daily Life of Street-Based Children of the Nepalese Capital. 1st ed. Kathmandu: CPCS and CPCS INT, Belgium, 2007.
Child Protection Centres and Services (Nepal), and Voice of Children (Nepal), eds. The Abuse of Street Children in Kathmandu: A Research on Children’s Experiences of Psychosocial, Physical, and Sexual Abuse. 1st ed. Kathmandu: CPCS–VOC, 2008.
Jean-Christophe, Ryckmans. The Street Children of Nepal: “Anthroposociological Study of Social, Cultural and Communicational Practices.” First edition. Kathmandu: CPCS International, 2012.
Newar, Naresh. “Pedophilia the Silent Sufferers: Molested Children.” Voice of Child Workers, 1999.
Poudel, Jaya, and Mega Research Centre & Publication (Kathmandu, Nepal), eds. District Development Profile of Nepal: A Socio-Economic Development Database of Nepal. Kathmandu: Mega Research Centre & Publication, 2010.
Remington, Francise. “The Forgotten One’s A Story of Street Children and Schooling in South Asia.” Indian Journal of Training and Development 13. 3 (1993).
S.H., Koller, and Hutz C. S. “International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences.” Street Children: Psychological Perspectives, 2001.
 Ryckmans Jean-Christophe, The Street Children of Nepal: “Anthroposociological Study of Social, Cultural and Communicational Practices,” (Kathmandu: CPCS International, 2012), 15.
 Child Protection Centres and Services (Nepal), ed., The Street Children of Kathmandu: Study, Approaches, and Comments on the Daily Life of Street-Based Children of the Nepalese Capital, 1st ed. (Kathmandu: CPCS and CPCS INT, Belgium, 2007), 28–34.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 13.
 Ibid., 23.
 Francise Remington, “The Forgotten One’s A Story of Street Children and Schooling in South Asia,” Indian Journal of Training and Development 13, 3 (1993): 53.
 Jaya Poudel and Mega Research Centre & Publication (Kathmandu, Nepal), eds., District Development Profile of Nepal: A Socio-Economic Development Database of Nepal (Kathmandu: Mega Research Centre & Publication, 2010), 307–331.
 Child Protection Centres and Services (Nepal) and Voice of Children (Nepal), eds., The Abuse of Street Children in Kathmandu: A Research on Children’s Experiences of Psychosocial, Physical, and Sexual Abuse, (Kathmandu: CPCS–VOC, 2008), 40.
 Child Protection Centres and Services (Nepal), The Street Children of Kathmandu, 7.
 Remington, “The Forgotten One’s,” 40–2.
 Koller S.H. and Hutz C. S., “International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences,” Street Children: Psychological Perspectives, 2001, 15157–15160.
 Jean-Christophe, The Street Children of Nepal, 18.
 http://portal.unesco.org/education/fr, (2008).
 Child Protection Centres and Services (Nepal), The Street Children of Kathmandu, 35.
 Ibid., 47.
 Newar, Naresh, “Pedophilia the Silent Sufferers: Molested Children,” Voice of Child Workers, 1999, 44.
 Child Protection Centres and Services (Nepal) and Voice of Children (Nepal), The Abuse of Street Children in Kathmandu, 41.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 53.