Pune: The International Day for Street Children is observed every year on 12th April. The day provides a platform for the millions of children on the streets around the world – and their champions – to speak out so that their rights cannot be ignored. Save the Children is implementing a project on Making #The Invisibles Visible (Children in Street Situations). Through this initiative we aim to provide the legal identity document to CiSS that enables them to be visible on the government records and avail schemes they are eligible for, to ensure their overall well-being and self-dependent progressive future. The project is being implemented in Nashik, Mumbai, Pune and Agra cities. This is a joint collaborative effort of Save the Children and Department of Women and Child Development; Government of Maharashtra , supported by Piaggio Vehicles Pvt. Ltd.

A webinar was organized by Save the Children and attended by representatives from UIDAI, Postal Department, Civil Society representatives from Salaam Balak Trust, New Vision and child champions. The call to action that children living in street situations have access to essential services, every child has the right to food, medical care, access to education, safety and dignity.

Addressing the webinar; Manisha Birasis, Programme Manager, Women and Child Development Department said “we have formed a Task Force involving Department of Education, Department of Home, Department of Medical and Health, Urban Development along with Women and Child Development Department to protect and provide proper identification to street children. This task force has developed an action plan and presented it to the Government for approval”. She emphasised that there is need to make special provisions for children without parental care living on the streets, children on move children and children of migrant labourers. To bring these children mainstream there is a need for strong inter departmental coordination. Save the Children’s Deputy Director Sanjay Sharma said that “Street Children deserve equal rights like other children and have access to essential services that ensure their mental and physical well-being.  He focused that we should ensure proper implementation of SOP –standard operating procedure for children in street situations”. Chetan Sonje, Programme Manager, IT cell & UIDAI, said that following the Save the Children’s recommendations “the department has made special provisions to prepare Aadhaar cards for street children. Till date 162 camps have been organized and Aadhaar cards of 5000 children have been issued”.

Zarin Gupta, Founder of Salaam Baalak Trust said that “for the last 30 years we have been working with Street Children and facing various challenges. It is not easy to identify and track these children in street situations and it becomes more challenging to work for them as they don’t have a living address. Our team has been working hard to mainstream these street children and provide them education and skills. During the lockdown these children have no access to roads and streets and it becomes a more life threatening situation to feed themselves.  Somehow they approached us for help and we supplied food, water and supported them in this difficult time. We are thankful to Save the Children and DWCD for supporting Salam Balak Trust in reaching these children`. Highlighting on the role of corporates Yogesh Kapse, Program Manager, PIAGGIO mentioned corporate funding should not be restricted to funding only but rather make better use of funds and leverage resources and support from NGO networks to ensure these street children will get skills, education and access to basic services”. Public relations Officer of the Postal department-Pune, Dattatreya Kodhalkar who has been supporting this initiative shared that we organised 52 camps and linked 4605 children for Aadhar card registration. Jointly with Save the Children 1100 girls were supported under Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana. Shobha Panwar from Child Welfare Committee, Nashik said that our endeavour is to make society sensitive and ensure equality and equity of these children in street situations.

In the webinar the child champions shared their stories. Jahnavi, a girl from Shivaji Nagar Basti, Nashik recalled her story that she did not have any identity proof and address. Save the Children supported thousands of children like me in getting their identity and address by getting us registered in an Aadhar Card and opened a bank account on this Aadhar card. Another youth champion Omkar said, my father had gone through the accident that made my life more challenging without having any financial support. Save the Children provided me support and I underwent training. Today I am capable and working in an electrical firm and supporting my family. I wish every child living in street situations should be supported like I was and ensure their life will get more easy and independent. Naresh, a young rapper associated with the Salaam Baalak Trust, presented his Rap Song ‘’Street to Stadium’’. dedicating to the street connected kids who are playing street cricket and also are ambitious to play professional cricket in stadium. He also has an ambition to be a famous rapper in future.

Through this project; 122,000 children provided with government identity cards & 50,000 children with various social security schemes, 107 youth have been provided skill development training and provided dignified employment. Even during Covid pandemic more than 5000 families in street situations supported food shelter and hygiene materials. Support was also provided to children homes with hygiene and sanitisation materials, educational materials etc.

The guideline on Individual Care Plan (ICP) for children in institutional care was released by the Department of Women and Child Development. It will assist in assessing the needs of children in institutional care and to identify areas of intervention for support and to ensure effective development of the children in a systematic way and ensure protection of rights of the children. This guideline also helps the caregivers to perform better on their duties in planning as well as proper execution of care plans for each child in institutional care.

On behalf of Save the Children; Ipsita Das, Sr. Manager, Projects Save the Children, Maharashtra thanked everyone and that we all have to work together for a shared value partnership to ensure their access to entitlements for children in street situations.

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