This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sumra Alam. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

I Tried To Do Something Nice For Street Children But Didn’t Realise Its Consequences

STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

Amidst the hustle of cities and caught in the web of individual commitments, our encounters with those on the streets are reduced to inconsiderate – and sometimes, selective – acts of kindness. These are meant to give the ‘beneficiaries’ of these acts a sense of instant privilege, which we probably think they are not deserving of.

My story of interacting with street children consists of a lot of excitement, happiness, and a little bit of embarrassment. This was a day when I stepped out of college knowing that I had to do something good.

The feeling went back a few weeks when I had exited a metro station and was greeted by a four-year-old who was trying to sell balloons to passersby.

I walked up to him and asked for one. He very candidly handed me a balloon, without a sign of happiness on his face. I was struck by the seriousness that this kid could display. I tried to chat with him for a bit, and asked him a few questions about him and his family.

I left soon after this short meeting – but the memory stayed with me for weeks to come.

Coming back to the fateful day – I set out to do something rewarding. I went back to the place wanting to spend some time with a few kids. I started talking to a kid – and in no time, I was walking around with a small group of five- to eight-year-olds. After a lot of debate, the kids decided that they wanted to eat at McDonald’s while sitting inside the restaurant.

This story is not about what happened at McDonald’s. That went pretty well. It is about what happened after the party was over and about the realisations that subsequently dawned upon me.

The mother of one of the kids was looking for her child and thought that she had gone missing. Upon finding us, she slapped her child twice, came up to me and very politely said, “Didi, I know you had good intentions, but I got worried about my child. Someone could have taken her away – and I would have had no chance of finding her.”

While the situation hardly bothered the kids, I was filled with guilt and embarrassment – because an intended act of kindness had turned into a major goof-up. On my way back home, I realised how easy it is for us to take for granted the issues of identity and security related to kids living on the streets.

Are you willing to interact with them?

Had it been some other kid, I would have taken these factors all into consideration. I was quick enough to assume that taking them for a walk should not be a problem to their parents – or in that case, I assumed that they wouldn’t have parents in the first place.

The issues of identity faced by these kids rest on a complex web of inter-relationships of various cultural, political as well as economic factors. The consequences of this inter-relatedness are clearly visible in the plight of these groups, today. Examining these factors will, undoubtedly, lead to a better understanding of the situation. But tackling the issue as a whole requires a little more involvement than mere distant and secondary knowledge. The best and perhaps the most fruitful way to address this is being directly involved with the communities.

In our perception, the ‘street’ rests in the ‘public’ space – which we tend to differentiate from the ‘private’. Imagining families spending their entire lives in a space so open and unprotected makes it difficult to identify them with the normalcy of family and civil life. This is one of the reasons why we often tend to ignore even the basic necessities that are missing from their lives.

The consequences this perception brings about for the underprivileged are not difficult to trace. A lack of civil, political and cultural identities strips them of the ability to access even the most basic resources that are required to live a healthy life.

The threat that this fluid identity of a ‘street life’ poses is such that it can cost children their lives. Without a valid, State-approved identity, the children lose the privilege of being looked after by the authorities. And in the absence of a traditional cultural identity, they lose the privilege of being recognised by the people around them. It seems as if there is no way to go from here.

However, as complex as things seem to look, simple acts of kindness can take this world a long way. All we need to do is engage ourselves in interacting with these communities.

Many a time, good intentions can be unfruitful if we are not fully aware of the conditions of those we are trying to help. An obvious solution to this situation would be to raise awareness about these communities – and most importantly, understanding their culture. In my opinion, a distant understanding of things will not prove successful unless it is done by promoting awareness through direct interaction.

We need to involve ourselves with the ones we want to take care of. Numerous children on the streets need strength – not only from our individual selves, but also from our families and friends. The more people we strive to engage in this cause, the bigger and better it will become.

The wall of awkwardness and goof-ups can be struck down only through constant participation with the ones who need our support the most.

_

Image used for representative purposes only.

You must be to comment.

More from Sumra Alam

Similar Posts

By Ankita Marwaha

By Merril Diniz

By STC INDIA

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below