Countless children live and work on the streets in India facing a daily struggle to secure their own and often their family's economic survival. Working in poorly paid and often degrading, hazardous and illegal jobs, street and working children are extremely vulnerable to abuse, discrimination and exploitation. Such a situation means they have little opportunity to play and develop in safe environments.
The authorities' decision to clear the streets in cities such as Delhi in preparation for the Commonwealth Games has exacerbated the problems already faced by India's street children. Without providing safe alternatives for children, this move has left many of them with nowhere to go. However the world's focus on the Commonwealth Games provides ChildHope and our partner organisations with the opportunity to highlight the situation faced by vulnerable street and working children in India.
Earlier this year our partner organisation Butterflies held a street children's sporting event 'The Children's Commonwealth Games' to raise awareness of the situation of street children in Delhi and to promote the importance of their right to play. The fun-filled, four-day event in which children took part in a wide variety of games was especially aimed at the most vulnerable and marginalised children. It therefore provided some valuable play time for many of those children who normally miss out due to their precarious living and working conditions on the streets of Delhi.
Through the 'Children's Commonwealth Games' Butterflies, who have been working with street and working children in Delhi for over 20 years, drew the government's attention to the importance of play during childhood, advocating for the need to promote, provide and protect safe spaces for children to play in. Several consultations were held on this issue involving government representatives and experts from the academic, NGO and corporate sectors. As a result of this innovative event a working group has been formed with the aim of further pursuing the campaign on the right to play and this group has already drawn up a 'Charter on Children's Right to Play' which has been shared with Indian Ministries.
So what do the 2010 Commonwealth Games mean for India's children? From a positive point of view they have provided a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of the situation of street and working children and particularly of the importance of the right to play for the some of India's most vulnerable and marginalised children.