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ECOWAS moves to eliminate street children syndrome in West Africa

DSC_0189ECOWAS met with Experts in Dakar to devise the means of eradicating the phenomenon of streetism. The meeting which ended on Wednesday, 24th June, 2015 came up with instant recommendations, which includes the creation of a legal instrument spurred by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child adapted to local socio-cultural realities.

The communiqué released at the end of the three-day consultation under the aegis of the ECOWAS Commission’s Political Affairs, Peace and Security Department, emphasizes the need for such a legally-binding instrument to further intensify the Member States’ commitment to end the distressing sight of young ones living on the streets.

At the experts meeting, which involved political, religious and traditional authorities as well as civil society organisations and financial and technical partners, a regional approach was mapped out to support Member States in the eradication of the phenomenon within the ECOWAS region.

The meeting revealed that the problem at hand should go beyond a mere project and be anchored on a long-term vision that embraces certain questions such as how to end sociological constraints while making room for a pre-agreed approach with the stakeholders.

Subsequent reflection enabled participants to consider fashioning public policies to respond to the needs of the grassroots population, with the break- up of families that has amplified the street children phenomenon.

Another recommendation from the workshop views the issue from a systemic, holistic and integrated perspective duly considering the dimension of gender as well as the indispensable creation of alliances and coalitions around the key themes of the phenomenon.

The need has arisen for regional and national authorities to become endowed with the appropriate regulatory framework for child protection and punishment for begging, while ensuring an increased grasp of the phenomenon by conducting studies in identified sectors, especially in the area of delinquency and other forms of deviant and mendicant behaviour.

The Dakar workshop made further recommendations, such as forging partnerships with private and civil-sector organisations through development programmes and by reinforcing cooperation frameworks with a view to further clamping down on the movement of the child within the ECOWAS region.

The region’s educational system needs to be revamped with a view to reducing the disparities between traditional teaching and modern systems and addressing the needs of street children. There is also the need to select a higher authority, for instance a Head of State, to pioneer the issue at ECOWAS summits.

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Besides organising advocacy and awareness campaigns for the eradication of streetism, there is the need to consider the matter as “a humanitarian emergency that needs to be addressed” recommended the experts again during their meeting in the Senegalese capital.

This workshop, which was organised by the ECOWAS Commission’s Early Warning Directorate, also served as the launch of the Regional Support Project for its Member States for the eradication of the street children phenomenon, and is the first of a series of activities set out in the 2015-2017 biannual action plan to combat streetism.

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