If you’d like to know more about life on the streets, and what we're trying to accomplish, please read below!
The streets of Kenya are home to up to 300,000 children and youth, many of whom reside in the city of Eldoret. These young people enter into a life on the streets for a number of reasons, the most common of which include living in poverty, family conflict, and child abuse. Once introduced to the streets, children and youth are exposed to a hostile physical and social environment that commands their engagement in unsafe practices, consequently compromising their physical and mental health, their ability to earn an income, and ultimately, their ability to leave behind their life on the streets.
Women and girls connected to the street are a particularly vulnerable population, as they bare little power in the street hierarchy, and are often viewed merely as sexual beings. As a result, they are regularly victims of rape, even prior to reaching puberty, and severe physical and sexual violence. Furthermore, in the absence of having an education or employable skills, they are given little choice but to turn to transactional sex as a means of survival, accepting as little as 10-50 KES ($0.13 - $0.63 CAD) in exchange for intercourse. It should therefore come as no surprise that the vast majority of street-connected women and girls have children of their own.
While for any adolescent, assuming the role of parent is accompanied by health, social, and economic challenges, those experienced by the street population in Eldoret are particularly complex. Some such challenges faced by street mothers include drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health issues, nutritional deficiencies, stigma, and more, all of which exist as a result of a dynamic combination of social, political, and economic factors beyond the control of the individual. Embedded in these very complex issues are the bare essentials that these mothers must go without, such as diapers, soap, pacifiers, warm clothes, and food. As such, it remains difficult for them to exhibit positive parenting practices, given that many have not been parented themselves.
In working with community leaders, front line workers, researchers, and the youth themselves, positive parenting skills has been identified as a major need, and a skill set which has both the potential to improve the current circumstances of this disparaged population, and to break the cycle of child street-involvement.
In light of this, I am collaborating with a driven group of community volunteers, social and health workers, academics, and street youth, to implement a positive parenting program for the street-connected women and girls in Eldoret. This program will be adapted from an evidence-based parenting curriculum from South Africa, called the Parenting for Lifelong Health for Young Children , a program which has already been adapted for the Kenyan context, but never for this very unique population. Thus, over the coming months we are working closely with street-connected women and girls to modify the program appropriately, to suit their specific needs, challenges, and strengths.
As there is very little funding available for this project, I am looking to raise enough funds to support its implementation, so that we can see if this parenting program is useful to, and accepted by these women and girls moving forward. The ultimate goal is to determine whether this program can be evaluated and scaled up, to help strengthen positive parenting and life skills among the street population through a collaborative and street-youth driven process, and to help these young people find their way off the streets.
I am looking to raise $5000 in order to cover the costs of the planning team, many of whom are current or former street youth; street outreach and mobilization; program facilitators and their training; translation and printing costs of program materials; and food, transportation, and sanitary supplies for the participating young mothers and their children each week.
If you could kindly spare as little or as much as you can offer, it would make a significant difference to these young women who have long been a neglected population, and who deserve a chance to not only survive, but to thrive.
**A big thank you to the group of street-connected mothers who came up with the program name (Malezi Bora na Maisha Mazuri: Good Parenting for a Good Life), and for consenting to have their photo used for fundraising! **
- Adele O'Neill
- Anita Kingsbury
- Lisa O'Neill
- Frederick J
- Marin MacLeod
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