The reasons children go to the streets are unique to their individual situations. Often there isn’t one simple reason why a child is on the streets. Rather, a combination of multiple factors drive children to a life on the streets, including poverty, neglect, the breakdown of the family, losing one or both parents to HIV/AIDS or other prevalent diseases and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.
The rights of women and children are rarely recognized in Tanzanian society. A lack of education and a fear of reprisal actions prohibit them from voicing these rights. Tanzania has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), but has failed to enact a domestic child protection law to uphold the principles in this international treaty.
Local inheritance traditions reinforce women and children’s inferior position to men in the social hierarchy. An increasing divorce rate in Tanzania has contributed to a large number of boys being driven out of their homes by stepmothers who feel they pose a threat to her own children’s inheritance.
What happens to street children?
Without help from organizations like Amani, street-children are trapped in a cycle of poverty and neglect that few are able to escape. They lack the basic necessities of food, health care and a safe place to stay. Like many other Tanzanian children, homeless children are unable to afford an education, and they miss out on the important life skills that are usually learned in the home. Children living on the street face the constant prospect of physical, verbal and sexual abuse from peers and adults. Sniffing glue and petrol is a common way to dull hunger pains and blot out the violence they face on a daily basis.
The problems associated with street children extend beyond the plight of the children themselves. The entire society is impoverished by the lost potential of homeless children and youth. In the long term, street children end up unskilled and jobless, often resorting to crime.