Juveniles between the reality and ambition [Archives:2003/652/Reportage]

July 21 2003

By Yemen Times Staff

“Juveniles between the reality and ambition” workshop held by WFTR last month in Aden came out with a number of recommendations. Eight working papers were presented at the workshop, all of which tackled with an ambitious project regarding the reality of the juveniles and street children in Yemen.
In spite of the importance of the workshop, the question that strongly forces itself is whether this workshop would form a strategy for a serious work to solve this problem.
The reality confirms that the number of street children has been increasing day by day and the ambition is still kind of hopes in a society oppressed by poverty and haunted by illiteracy and employment.

Painful scenes
Gamil Massoud al-Wasabi, 12-year-old, loiters bare-footed in Aden streets for two years, putting on shabby dirty clothes and he was supposed to be in school and under the care of his family, school and government that still adopt an unclear policy in this respect.
Being so young has not softened the heart of his father heart who wants him to go out begging in the streets or to work for providing money for his family.
He said “My father is jobless and everyday he severely hits me, so last year I decided to escape from the house to Hodiedah and spent a month there and then I to Aden I am not alone. I have friends that we together sleep in the streets and in front of mosques and restaurants. We are from Taiz, Ibb, Thamar, and Hodiedah”
He continued “we eat food leftovers in restaurants and we are exposed to harassment daily”
A small girl, from the (Al-Akhadam) was sitting beside one of the restaurants having some remaining rice said, “We are so poor people. My father has no job and my mother, sisters and brothers and I go everyday to beg in the streets and restaurants to get money and food remaining all the day. We are exposed to beating and abuses by owners and the employees of restaurants and sometimes by customers who get annoyed of us.''

The size of street children phenomenon in Yemen
Studies conducted on child beggars estimate their number in Sana'a in 1993 at about 562 female and male children. While experts see that these estimations do not go with results of the census of 1994 that estimated them at 4000 children in Sana'a only.
However, the analyses of 1997, organized by the UNCIF and the World Bank for the children who work in Sana'a streets and other Yemeni cities said they were 3000-6000 children.
On the other hand, the results of the National Council for Childhood points out the primary estimations are 7000 children in Sana'a alone.
We have to admit that the prevailing opinion does not recognise the fact about street children but in narrow range. This can be attributed to the nature of development programs implemented on the ground.

Reading painful reality
To know the reality of street children is difficult, had it not been the study that WFTR had conducted and discussed the reality of street children.
This study included a sample research about street children including 140 children in streets of Sana'a, Aden, Taiz and Hodiedah who are between 5-17 years old.

The results of this study, that can be considered the only reference till now in this field were:
42.9 9% of street children are exposed to attempts of actual sexual attack and 22.9% of them are exposed to actual sexual attacks.
On the other hand, 15% are exposed to road accidents and 37,9% exposed to adult violence as well as 33,6 % are arrested by police.

Children below 17 and other just 10 years old sleep, and eat in the streets, and their life is spent in streets. What is expected from them in future if 94,5% assured they are exposed to harassment?
The study confirmed that one of the main reasons of children's leaving school and stay in the streets is the deteriorated economic situation of the family and its inability to pay education expenses, and these children form 48,51% and 15% of them is attributed to their failure in their study.
The children who do not have a chance to go to school are 47,1% against 38,6% who are school-dropping. One of the parents marriage forms another cause for children to go to the streets and these for about 13,6%. 70,7% of street children earning goes to help their families regularly.

Family social condition
The family situation: The poverty and loose relationship inside the family greatly affect life and future of children. It has been certain 24,3% of street children belong to divorced parents. While 67,1% of them are from families the parents are not divorced.
So the family poverty and differences between the parents are the main factors for the increase of the phenomenon of street children and juveniles delinquency.
8,6% of those children say they do not know about their families anything and 33.6% of them say their parents are continuously in a state dispute and 25% say their fathers are married to another woman.

Juveniles centers
A center for juveniles is founded in Aden, however, according to Mr. Abduallah Ibrahim, the finance manger of the centre the experiment had failed for lacking of due the non-existence of a nucleus capable of running programs of such centers. He added that some managers of these centers were instead of implementing the program for the juveniles they tried to carry out the manager's program, and instead of taking care of children they left them go begging in the streets.
There are other new civil organisations such as the association for juveniles care and the safe childhood center that belongs to the Women Association for Combating Poverty but it lacks the specialized staff and has been almost the major cause behind children escape from the center.

Reading in juveniles law
According to judge Ali Ahmed Ba'shan, the head of juveniles court in Aden, the law of juveniles care No. 24 of 1992, amended with the law No. 26 of 1997 the criminal treatment of the child is defined by 4 aspects of which is the special care for children under difficult circumstances where it seems that he child care is under protection of the law against homelessness phenomenon and mixing with street children.
He has stressed that protection of children in general is achieved by watching their families that are mainly responsible for bringing them up and caring for them. Parents should be punished for an negligence leading to children deviation of any sort.

The conclusion
The problem is not ascribed to the law but rather the economic situation of families, and spread of illiteracy, which would remain the main causes of crimes in the Arab homeland. If there is no compulsory primary education and real plans for fighting poverty, hundreds of children in the streets would constitute an aggravating social problem threatening the society structure in the Arab homeland.