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Stop the Kenyan government from forcibly removing innocent children from the streets

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Before these vulnerable children  reach the street, they have experienced multiple deprivations and violations of their rights. This results in them developing a strong connection to the street. 

Street children are exposed to consistent discrimination and abuse, which can cause profound psychological distress and trauma. The streets can offer these children an escape from domestic violence, however they expose children to other forms of discrimination and abuse.  

Street children are vulnerable. They are not incapable. They need to be respected. Interventions must be not force children to renounce the connections they have to the street before they feel ready. We must work with these children.

'Flushing out' street children from the city of Nairobi, as the Kenyan Government are doing, by forcibly removing them from the streets, is inhumane and a violation of their rights.  

Everyone of us can help make positive change for children living on the streets. It's as simple as giving a signature.

The Problem:

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has launched 'OPERATION TO FLUSH OUT STREET KIDS FROM THE CITY's Central Business District to Rehabilitation Center'. Sonko commented that “the initiative to rehabilitate street children will be continuous under my administration”.

Citizen Extra's coverage (published 07/02/2018) shows footage of the forcible removal of street children, street families and homeless adults.

In June 2017, the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted its General Comment No 21 on Children in Street Situations.

The General Comment provides governments with authoritative guidance on how to ensure they offer the same human rights protection to children in street situations as any other child within their jurisdiction.

The General Comment outlines that there are different approaches used with respect to children in street situations, sometimes in combination. They include a child rights approach, whereby the child is respected as a rights holder and decisions are often made with the child; a welfare approach, involving the “rescue” of children perceived to be an object or victim from the street and whereby decisions are made for the child without serious consideration for her or his views; and a repressive approach, whereby the child is perceived to be a delinquent.

The General Comment states that the welfare and repressive approaches fail to take into account the child as a rights holder and result in the forcible removal of children from the streets, which further violates their rights. Indeed, claiming that welfare and repressive approaches are in the best interests of the child does not make them rights based. To apply the Convention, it is essential to use a child rights approach.

Sonko's approach fails to take into account the child as a rights holder and has resulted in the forcible removal of children from the streets, which further violates their rights.

What can be done?

The Committee in its General Comment urges States to develop comprehensive, long-term national strategies on children in street situations, using a holistic, child rights approach. This means that children in street situations must be treated as active agents in their own lives and involved in decision-making. They should not be viewed or treated merely as victims or delinquents. It further means that each child is an individual: the diversity of children - their age, sex, ethnicity, indigenous identity, nationality, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, among other characteristics - should be taken into account in determining what is in the best interest of each child. No one singular, uniform approach to support the needs of each individual child in street situations can exist.



In a child rights approach, the process of realizing children’s rights is as important as the end result. A child rights approach ensures respect for the dignity, life, survival, well-being, health, development, participation and non-discrimination of the child as a rights holder.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a child rights approach is one that:

(a) Furthers the realization of child rights as established in the Convention and other international human rights instruments;

(b) Uses child rights standards and principles from the Convention and other international human rights instruments to guide behaviour, actions, policies and programmes, particularly: non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; the right to be heard and taken seriously; and the child’s right to be guided in the exercise of his or her rights by caregivers, parents and community members, in line with the child’s evolving capacities;

(c) Builds the capacity of children as rights holders to claim their rights and the capacity of duty bearers to fulfil their obligations to children.

Significance for children in street situations

The Committee considers that strategies and initiatives that adopt a child rights approach fulfil the main criteria for good practice, regardless of level or context. Children in street situations are often distrustful of adult intervention in their lives. Their abusive treatment by adults in society has led them to be unwilling to relinquish their hard-won, albeit limited, autonomy. This approach emphasizes full respect for their autonomy, including supporting them to find alternatives to depending on the streets. It promotes their resilience and capabilities, increasing their agency in decision-making and empowering them as socioeconomic, political and cultural actors. It builds on their existing strengths and the positive contributions they make to their own survival and development and that of their peers, families and communities. Applying this approach is not only a moral and legal imperative but also the most sustainable approach for identifying and implementing long-term solutions with children in street situations.

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