Kids in city slums

According to UNICEF, about one billion children and adolescents live in cities. Many children enjoy the advantages of urban life, such as access to schools, hospitals, and recreational facilities. However, for the millions of youth living in slums, life is more grim. They start life on poverty's front lines, without access to education, infrastructure, or sanitation, are subject to hunger and disease, and are thrust prematurely into adult responsibilities. Read on to see how programs in Mexico City, Mumbai, Nairobi, Jakarta, Dhaka, and Rio de Janeiro are working with children living in slums — then join the conversation below.


$22 making a difference in child labor

Zyma Islam, Dhaka Contributor
The Asian University for Women Writing Team

Five-year-old Shima is on the bottom rung in the human ecosystem of the sprawling slum habitat clinging to the banks of Buriganga. She squats outside the door of a bhangari shop, a shop which sorts out waste for recycling, sifting through the thick black riverside muck for miniscule bits of copper fiber.

"I am too young to work in the bhangari shops," she said, "so I forage bits of this red metal from the waste piles of the shops and sell them to the recycling factories."

Her elder brother, Noyon, the proud holder of a "proper job," spends twelve hours a day as a bhangari, snapping off needles from used syringes. His arms are riddled with blotched scars from needle pricks, burned to cauterize the wound and prevent the spreading of diseases.

The two siblings live in a one-room shanty atop a two-story makeshift apartment block balanced precariously on stilts in the heavy river mud. The residential block is just across a narrow lane from the commercial zone; every day, thousands of children like Shima and Noyon cross the divide between the safety of their homes and the dangers of their profession.

For these children, it is only $15 that makes a difference between a secure future, and the perils of their occupation. This is why Selim, a ragpicker, happily said yes to UNICEF's cash-transfer program, which allocates $22 worth of grants to him every month.

Selim is one of the 500 children chosen by this pilot project of UNICEF, in collaboration with the government of Bangladesh. This project, aiming at cash transfers to keep children out of child labor, is a part of their social safety net (SSN) programme portfolio, which is inclusive of issues such as disaster adaptation and assistance for the handicapped, with post-retirement SSN programmes taking a major share.

Assurance of the continuation of education is one of the pre-requisites of the cash-transfer programme, along with other conditions like withdrawing the child from hazardous labor, ensuring that optimum health and nutrition standards are met, and agreeing that the child will not be subjected to underage marriage.

The cash grants do more than run the daily life of a family. They also allow for spending on health and nutrition, investment in home-enterprises, saving for the future, and insuring against probable disasters. Not only is the grant more than the average income made by child labor, but the money brought in by the child is no longer susceptible to factors like wage exploitation, unexpected closures, natural disasters, political strikes, or illnesses. This allows for steady saving and spending techniques where children are the beneficiaries.

However, the 500 children benefitting from this programme are simply a drop in the bucket, when one out of every five children in the slums of Dhaka is involved in labor classified as hazardous. Noyon and Shima are, as yet, beyond the reach of a normal childhood and a secure future. Even with the Government of Bangladesh spending 2.5 percent of the total GDP on SSN programmes, UNICEF's target population numbers at 10,000 children only, leaving behind a few million more like Noyon and Shima to risk their lives every day.

Dhaka's community on is managed by a group of students from the Research Center on Development and Humanitarian Action at the Asian University for Women (AUW). One of the major foci of the Research Center is urban management, governance, and poverty in Asia. AUW is a liberal arts institution for women from all over Asia, located in Bangladesh. With an international faculty and student body, AUW provides a critical pathway to leadership development, economic progress, and social and political equality.

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community ManagerMathare's Tina Turner

Katy Fentress, Nairobi Community Manager

Typically, children in slums are depicted as having few opportunities to be able to break free from the cycle of poverty that they have been born into. It is a common assumption that slum kids spend their time doing menial jobs, do not go to school, engage in various levels of petty crime and largely depend on charity to be able to achieve a better life.

Little attention is directed to the real game changers in these areas: those who were born and brought up in the slum and have made it their lifelong mission to be able to support children who cannot afford to go to school and have no ways of passing their days in a productive way. It is first and foremost these people and their endeavours in the community that should be supported in their quest to raise the standard of living of those who live in informal marginalised settlements.

This week, as part of our children in slums topic, we are describing a day in the life of Tina Turner Warimu, a child who, with the help of one such mentor and her own determination, has begun to pave the road for a bright future which holds promise and hope.

Tina Turner Wairimu is a 13-year-old girl who lives in Mathare with her mother and four younger siblings. She attends a small private school called Destiny Junior Academy and is in Standard Seven (9th grade). One of the top students in her class, Tina is also a fiercely competitive football (soccer) player and is the captain of the local True Colours under-sixteen girls' team.

Tina's daily routine is very tight and leaves little space for idle play. Awake at 6:30am, she must first bathe inside the single room the entire family lives in with the water her mother buys every day. As the oldest child, she gets to bathe first while her younger siblings wait their turn outside. After her morning ablutions, Tina takes tea with milk but no sugar and a piece of white bread. Next she rushes off to school on her own while her mother sets off to work in a local laundry service where clothes are washed by hand.

Tina recently changed schools. Until December last year she attended Valley View Academy, a larger private school in Mathare that is a slightly longer walk from her home. Although her siblings still attend Valley View, Tina decided to change because her coach, Austin Ajowi, recently founded Destiny Junior Academy and she felt she would be happy attending a school that was run by him.

Ajowi, 36, known locally as "Coaches," is a widely celebrated and respected man around Mathare. He single-handedly founded the True Colours football club almost ten years ago when he decided he wanted to find something to keep the local out-of-school street kids busy. Since then, the club has expanded, and Ajowi currently coaches 15 different female and male junior and professional teams who play in tournaments around the country. Ajowi worked as a volunteer at Valley View Academy for a few years before deciding he wanted to found a school of his own. With the help of dedicated young teachers from the area, Ajowi set up a small school with six classrooms, all of which are packed with students eager to learn. The school charges the students a small fee, but those who cannot afford to pay can continue to attend class. In addition to this, the school receives informal funding from friends and well-wishers who want to see it grow and prosper.

Tina spends a good part of her day, from 8am to 5pm, at school. She loves school because she can spend time with her friends and continue learning science, which is by far her favourite subject. The reason she likes science is because she wants to learn about the environment, which she believes is important because, in her words, "It is the air we breathe which must be kept clean if we want our planet to be healthy." Tina dreams of becoming an air hostess and travelling the world.

Six days a week Tina goes to football practice when she gets out of school. Tina takes her duties as team captain very seriously because it means she takes care of her teammates, and also because when they win, she is the one who gets the most attention.

Tina will be trying out for a Norwegian female junior team in the coming months; if she is selected, it will mean having to leave home to pursue football as a professional player. Tina is excited at the idea of being able to travel to Europe, although she is afraid she will miss her mother and brothers and sisters.

After football practice Tina goes home and bathes. She does five maths sums before and after doing her homework. The sums are an extra-curricular activity that she is not required to do. After homework she eats her dinner and then helps her mother wash the dishes before falling into bed with her siblings.

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community ManagerBollywood comes to the slums

Carlin Carr, Mumbai Community Manager

When Kid Powered Media rolls into a Delhi slum with its portable movie theater in the back of a white Suzuki van, everyone shows up. The 10-foot screen lights up with a battery-powered projector to showcase a drama-filled flick. But this is not your typical Bollywood film, and the stars on the screen are not your typical Bollywood actors. The films all star kids from the community who have written and performed the socially-focused movies to raise awareness about issues that concern them, as kids.

"Our media keeps children's voices at the center so that kids can help kids in fun and entertaining ways," says Kid Powered Media's Facebook page. The goal is to get communities talking, and help kids to generate solutions that fit their unique circumstances. Themes often focus on alcohol abuse, teacher absenteeism, domestic violence issues and gender awareness. "The challenges for kids in slums are not black and white," explains Alex Heywood, a Canadian who now calls Delhi home since he founded Kid Powered Media in 2010. He says India's school system notoriously teaches by rote and that social issues are difficult to discuss in this mechanical way. Kid Powered Media introduces students to storytelling through writing and acting workshops that empower them to create, discuss, brainstorm and devise new ways of tackling issues that affect them.

Heywood stresses that the kids are in charge, because they often talk about issues in unexpected ways. For example, they were creating a comic book about alcoholism, and Heywood says that while he would have started with the health repercussions, the kids wanted to link drinking to reputation. "They didn't want to come out and say stop drinking," says Heywood, "they wanted to emphasize consuming less so that they didn't come out into the streets and make a scene that would embarrass everyone." Capturing this viewpoint, Heywood believes, is the key to devising solutions that work for the youth in the communities.

Heywood came up with the idea for Kid Powered Media while working on an agricultural project in rural areas of India. He recalls seeing vans that would cross the countryside with big screens on the back to show the far-off communities the latest film. People would come from all around to see the moveable movies. Today, Heywood has brought the rural phenomenon to the city and runs Delhi's first portable cinema.

Kid Powered Media is part of a growing trend to use theater and the arts to help low-income communities discuss social issues and stigmas. In Mumbai, organizations have been using street theater to discuss taboo themes. As Heywood says, there is some liberty granted through the arts that allows these voices and ideas to enter these communities. "We're not pointing fingers saying 'this is your kid doing drugs.' We're using characters to say these problems exist and to bring more awareness to them. We're giving kids a platform to do something."

One of the student groups in Kid Powered Media's weekly club classes decided to create a comic book on education. Since 50 percent of Kid Powered Media attendees no longer attend school - girls may need to help in the house and boys may need to earn money - the book explored options for these kids outside of the traditional school day. The creative group, called the Funky Boyz (all the club groups give themselves names), brought forward alternatives such as skills training and night school. In this sense, creating media becomes more than fostering imagination and discussion. The stories are platforms to solicit and distribute ideas and dreams for their communities. For these kids, art transcends aesthetics and becomes a tangible outlet for working through community problems and helps youth to be part of the solution.

All videos can be found on Kid Powered Media's Vimeo page.

Yuyun Harmono, Jakarta Community ManagerSirkus sosial untuk pemberdayaan anak-anak Cilincing

Yuyun Harmono, Jakarta Community Manager

In the slum of Cilincing, North Jakarta, many kids drop out of school as their parents are unable to pay for school fees. Dan Roberts established the Red Nose Foundation to introduce the Red Nose circus to these children. Circus helps develop their skills and increases self-confidence. Many of them are able to go back to school with a scholarship provided by the Foundation. Thanks to the circus, kids in the Cilincing slum have been able to express themselves creatively, become active citizens, and attend school.

Cilincing, Jakarta Utara adalah satu dari 392 perkampungan kumuh di Jakarta berdasarkan data Biro Pusat Statistik tahun 2011. Angka putus sekolah di Cilincing tergolong tinggi. Ada beberapa sebab, turut bekerja membantu keuangan keluarga menjadi alasan utama. Alasan lain, masih banyak iuran dari pihak sekolah yang harus dibayar, misalnya untuk buku, seragam dan kebutuhan penunjang belajar. Bagi mereka yang bersekolah jauh dari tempat tinggal, biaya transportasi menjadi kendala tersendiri.

Seringkali, penghasilan orang tua mereka yang sebagian besar buruh pengupas kerang hijau dan nelayan tidak cukup untuk membiayai sekolah anak-anaknya. Anak-anak di Cilincing terpaksa menanggalkan seragam sekolah mereka, bekerja mengupas kerang hijau, mengamen dan mengasong. Dengan realitas demikian, sulit bagi anak-anak di perkampungan kumuh ini untuk bisa lepas dari lingkaran kemiskinan. Masih adakah harapan bagi masa depan mereka?

Harapan itu dibawa oleh seorang badut. Ya, badut. Awal tahun 2008, Dan Roberts menginjakkan kaki di RT 13/07, Kalibaru, Cilincing. Ia mengenalkan Sirkus Hidung Merah, kegiatan yang dibiayai oleh Badut Tanpa Batas. Ia mengajarkan sirkus pada anak-anak di perkampungan kumuh tersebut. Namun yang ini bukan sembarang sirkus. Metode yang digunakan dikenal sebagai Sirkus Sosial, yaitu sebuah pendekatan inovatif untuk intervensi sosial yang berdasarkan seni sirkus.

Dalam pendekatan ini, tujuan utamanya bukan untuk mempelajari seni sirkus. Tujuan utamanya untuk membantu pengembangan pribadi dan sosial peserta dengan meningkatkan kepercayaan diri, menjadi warga yang aktif, mengekspresikan kreativitas, dan mengembangkan potensi mereka. Misalnya, belajar menyulap dapat mengembangkan ketekunan, akrobat dapat mengembangkan kerja sama tim, dan atraksi badut dapat mengembangkan kepercayaan diri.

Perjumpaaan dengan anak-anak di Cilincing mendorong Dan Roberts mendirikan Yayasan Hidung Merah (YHM) pada tahun 2009. Setahun kemudian, Pusat Sirkus Cilincing didirikan atas bantuan dari berbagai pihak. Lantai pertama dari bangunan dua lantai berukuran 8x6 meter itu digunakan untuk latihan Sirkus dan kelas seni lainnya. Sedangkan lantai kedua dilengkapi dengan meja bagi anak didik untuk belajar Bahasa Inggris dan Matematika.

Hingga saat ini, kegiatan belajar dan latihan sirkus berkembang tidak hanya di perkampungan Cilincing, namun juga di Bintaro Lama, Jakarta Selatan. Jumlah murid mencapai 200 anak. Kegiatan belajar di Bintaro lama diadakan setiap hari Senin dan Rabu. Sedangkan di Cilincing setiap hari Selasa sampai Jumat. Tiap hari Minggu, 35 anak paling jago sirkus dari kedua kelompok tersebut bergabung untuk latihan bersama di aula Jakarta International School.

Keahlian sirkus yang dimiliki anak-anak ini ditampilkan dalam pertunjukan tahunan Sirkus Hidung Merah di Cilincing. Mereka juga sering tampil dalam Sirkus amal maupun komersial. Beberapa kali anak-anak ini juga diundang untuk mengisi acara di berbagai stasiun Televisi. YHM menyadari bahwa fokus mereka adalah pendidikan, bukan seringnya tampil di berbagai pertunjukan. Oleh sebab itu, dalam sebulan agenda tampil di berbagai acara dibatasi hanya dua kali, kecuali waktu libur sekolah.

YHM juga berkomitmen untuk mendukung anak didik melanjutkan pendidikan formal. Sejak tahun 2011, diluncurkan program beasiswa untuk anak didik Sirkus Hidung Merah. Antara tahun 2012-2013, beasiswa diberikan kepada 480 anak dengan pembagian 430 anak mendapat beasiswa sebagian dan 50 anak mendapat beasiswa penuh. Pada tahun 2013-2014, YHM menargetkan untuk memberi beasiswa penuh kepada 100 anak dan 750 sampai 1.000 beasiswa sebagian. Beasiswa yang diberikan mencakup kebutuhan bulanan, kebutuhan seragam, buku dan biaya ujian.

Dengan berbagai program tersebut, YHM menunjukkan bahwa anak-anak yang tinggal di kawasan kumuh juga punya hak untuk mengenyam pendidikan yang lebih baik. Mereka juga mampu mengembangkan diri sesuai dengan keterampilan yang mereka miliki. Badut-badut Hidung Merah dari perkampungan kumuh Cilincing menunjukkan bahwa harapan akan masa depan yang lebih baik selalu ada.

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community ManagerAlimentación: principal problemática en la niñez pobre y urbana

María Fernanda Carvallo, Mexico City Community Manager

Within the poorest population in Mexico City, children are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. To mitigate this risk, the organization Comedor Santa Maria provides food support to underprivileged children and their families, providing 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of nutrients. The organization's goal is to foster human capital through good nutritional habits and improving families' dietary practices. Thanks to these interventions, the children have the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and become productive members of society.

En esta gran ciudad a diario somos testigos del contexto de los niños pobres de los asentamientos informales, los cuales viven cerca de las ventajas que ofrece la urbanización sin poder tener acceso a ellas. Hablamos de niños obesos así como desnutridos que son resultado de una condición de pobreza alimentaria, al tener una disponibilidad limitada o incierta en el consumo de alimentos nutritivos, adecuados e inocuos. De acuerdo a UNICEF, estos niños tienen más probabilidades de morir antes de cumplir los cinco años por desnutrición. De igual manera SEDESOL afirma que los grupos más vulnerables a la desnutrición son los niños lactantes, preescolares y escolares debido a los requerimientos nutricionales para su crecimiento.

Por su parte el Comedor Santa María (CSM) explica que hay una relación entre los jóvenes inmersos en la delincuencia o violencia y el contacto con la pobreza alimentaria.. De acuerdo a CSM, una organización que brinda apoyo alimentario a niños de escasos recursos, los niños beneficiarios viven un presente en sus hogares lleno de carencias. Por un lado el ingreso familiar semanal oscila entre los $27 USD y $45 USD; lo que conlleva a la falta de seguridad alimentaria, además de un ambiente de estrés y de violencia intrafamiliar que puede ser originada por la misma pobreza en la que viven. De igual manera, la carencia de una vivienda digna y adecuada también provoca el hacinamiento de las familias de estos pequeños poniéndolos en alto riesgo de sufrir algún tipo de abuso sexual; algunos de los niños del CSM menores de 10 años han sido víctimas de algún familiar.

Ante ese contexto, la estrategia de apoyo de CSM va desde el apoyo alimentario, el desarrollo de valores universales en los niños y la adopción de hábitos con el fin de impactar directamente en el niño y en su contexto familiar de manera subsecuente. Actualmente cuenta con 8 comedores en el Distrito Federal y 6 en el Estado de México, cada uno ubicado en colonias de marginación y en pobreza. El eje central del comedor es la Educación en Nutrición, puesto que al proveer una adecuada nutrición al niño se desarrolla de manera óptima los sentidos, lo que contribuye a un mejor rendimiento y aprovechamiento académico y de adquisiciones de habilidades para la vida.

Para que las familias se inscriban al comedor, deben desarrollar corresponsabilidad para recibir los beneficios del CSM, por lo que adquieren obligaciones y responsabilidades que ayudan a que el niño tenga un desarrollo integral. Por un lado, se les pide a las familias la recuperación de $7 pesos e implementar un programa de valores universales alrededor de cuatro temas: salud física, salud psíquica, salud familiar y salud emocional; por lo que las familias deben asistir a la plática de valores y realizar las tareas de dicho programa en casa. Así mismo, en caso de que los niños asistan a la escuela es necesario que los papás cumplan con el calendario escolar y entreguen el control de calificaciones en el CSM.

El resultado de la labor del CSM en los niños ha sido el proveer una alimentación balanceada, ya que cuando los niños asisten al comedor cumplen con el 100% de la Ingesta Diaria Recomendada (IDR), mientras que un muestreo de los niños en espera para ser beneficiario de esta organización solamente cumple con el 28 por ciento de lDR, siendo la mayoría de los alimentos altos en calorías sin ser nutritivos. Así mismo, CSM ha notado el aumento del respeto y la comunicación en el entorno familiar de los niños por lo que en algunos casos se ha disminuido la violencia intrafamiliar en la que vivían los pequeños. Las condiciones de pobreza urbana en estos pequeños son muy complejas, sin embargo una piedra angular es la alimentación que repercutirá en su contexto y en su futuro.

Además de preocuparse por los niños en condiciones de pobreza, CSM es parte de Fondos a la Vista, una red de organizaciones de la sociedad civil que fomentan la rendición de cuentas de las organizaciones a fin de promover buenas prácticas para la continuidad de recursos disponibles para el desarrollo social en México.

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community ManagerConversations with Rocinha children

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager

About 20 percent of Rio de Janeiro's residents are children ages 0 to 14. Many of them attend one of the city's 982 elementary schools; they might check out books in one of the city's 78 libraries; and they might play in one of the city's 54 parks. But unfortunately, not all children have the same access to basic education, local libraries, or neighborhood parks. As an example, let's take Rocinha, a low-income neighborhood in Rio's southern area, with over 70,000 residents. This neighborhood is significantly under-served with regard to educational and recreational services for its 12,000 children ages 4 to 14: it has only three elementary schools, one library, and no adequate parks. In addition, it has the lowest coverage of pre-school services in the city, with only 4.7 percent of children ages 4-5 attending public pre-school, compared to the city's average of 34 percent (Rio Como Vamos, with data from 2011).

In order to better understand the lives of children in low-income neighborhoods, decided to talk to them directly. We partnered with Developing Minds Foundation so that we could talk to the children it works with in Rocinha. The organization provides pre-school education and teaches children technology skills in various low-income areas in Rio. Natalie Shoup from the Foundation lead several conversations with children and enabled us to learn a bit about what these children liked, disliked and feared in their lives.

One of our first impressions is that most of the children we talked to like their neighborhood. Mariana, who is 13, explained: "Although I know there are better places, I like my own community." Pedro, who is 11, added: "I like living in Rocinha, as I was born and raised here; at the end of the day you get used to living here."

Younger children also had their opinions about their lives and what they enjoy. Miguel, who is four years old, told us: "I just like to play and go around with my bike." Erik, also 4, told us: "I like to go out, play, and then go to my pre-school to eat good food." For many children, school is not only to play and learn, but is also the only time they get a good and nutritious meal.

Many of these children face enormous difficulties in trying to gain access to basic social services, such as health care and education. Ana Luisa, who is six years old, told us her mother was not able to find her a spot at the local elementary school, meaning that she couldn't enroll to start her primary education this year. "My mom has tried to find a space for me at the local school, but there are no vacancies; she's going to keep looking, so if you hear of a vacancy in any school, please let us know... otherwise I might stay at the children's day care forever."

Regarding the fears of the children we talked to, we learned that most of them have the same fears as any other child, no matter what neighborhood they live in. When asked what they were afraid of, Brenda, who is six years old, said: "I'm afraid to go to swim in the ocean, because I might bump into a shark." Ana Clara, who is five, said: "My fear is playing down in the street; my mom doesn't allow me to play alone there, as some men might take me away."

These are just a few testimonies of children living in Rocinha. On one hand, they share a great deal with children who do not live in the same disadvantaged conditions, like their curiosity and spontaneity. On the other hand, they face daily struggles due to the fact that they are not able to gain access to many basic services. There is a great need for more and better child care and educational programs, as well as access to nutritious food and recreational spaces. Only by providing each child with these services will they be able to learn and to have the opportunity to build themselves a brighter future.

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community ManagerConversas com crianças da Rocinha

Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager

Cerca de 20 por cento da população total de Rio de Janeiro é composta por crianças de 0-14 anos. Muitas destas crianças podem-se beneficiar de alguma das 982 escolas de ensino fundamental da cidade; de uma das 78 bibliotecas do município e também podem jogar em algum de seus 54 parques. Infelizmente, nem todas as crianças tem igual aceso à educação, às bibliotecas locais e parques. Para ilustrar a situação, coloquemos o exemplo da Rocinha, uma comunidade na zona sul do Rio que onde moram mais de 70 mil pessoas. O bairro está bem atrasado no referente a serviços de educação e lazer para mais de 12 mil crianças na faixa de 4 a 14 anos. O bairro tem só 3 escolas de ensino fundamental, uma biblioteca e nenhum parque. Rocinha tem a cobertura de educação pré-escolar de crianças entre 4 e 5 mais baixa de Rio (4,7 por cento); embora a cidade tenha uma cobertura media de 34 por cento (Rio Como Vamos, com dados de 2011).

Para compreender melhor como são as vidas das crianças dos bairros de baixa renda, URB.IM decidiu perguntar diretamente para eles. Neste esforço fizemos uma parceria como a organização Developing Minds Foundation para falar com crianças que são beneficiarias de sua iniciativa na Rocinha. Esta organização vem liderando um trabalho muito bacana na educação pré-escolar e no desenvolvimento de conhecimento em tecnologia em varias áreas carentes da cidade. Natalie Shoup daquela fundação liderou algumas conversas com crianças que permitiram aprender como é a vida deles.

Uma das primeiras impressões sobre as crianças que participaram das conversas: elas gostam de seu bairro. Mariana, de 13 anos de idade, relatou "Rocinha é bom para morar mais eu sei, Rio tem lugares melhores"; e Pedro, que tem 11 colocou "Eu acho que morar na Rocinha é uma coisa muito boa porque quem foi nascido e criado aqui um dia acostuma".

As crianças mais novas também colocaram suas opiniões sobre suas vidas. Miguel, de 4 anos falou "gosto só de brincar de bicicleta"; e Erik, também de 4, comentou "eu gosto de sair da casa e brincar, e ir para a creche e comer comida boa". Ele nos lembrou do caso de muitas crianças que a escola ou a creche apresenta a única oportunidade diária de receber uma boa refeição.

Muitas das crianças apresentam grandes dificuldades para receber serviços sociais como saúde e educação. Ana Luisa, de 6 anos, apresentou que sua mãe não tem conseguido uma vaga para ela na escola. "Vou ficar aqui na creche todo dia porque não tem vaga pra mim na escola. Minha mãe tentou mais não conseguiu. Olha, vai procurando se tem alguma escola com vaga, tá? Procura em alguns lugares se tem escola vazia pra mim; porque se não vou ficar aqui pra sempre".

Sobre os medos das crianças de nossas conversas, aprendemos que muitas delas têm os medos "comuns" de outras crianças que não moram em bairros de baixa renda. Quando perguntamos sobre medos específicos, Brenda, de 6 anos falou "tenho medo de nadar no mar porque pode ter tubarão". Ana Clara, de 5 anos falou "não posso brincar embaixo na rua. Minha mãe não deixa porque se não um homem com saco vai me levar".

Estes comentários são só um resumo das conversas com as crianças da Rocinha. Por uma parte, nos observamos que eles compartilham curiosidade e espontaneidade e outras características similares de crianças que não moram em condições de pobreza. Também conseguimos observar que estas crianças apresentam grandes carências no aceso de serviços básicos. Porem, maiores esforços para ampliar a cobertura de educação, nutrição e oportunidades de troca e brincadeira são muito urgentes nas comunidades mais carentes da cidade.


This reminds us of how creative children are - children of all stripes and education levels. These kids have incredible stories to tell (as well as aspects of their lives to comment on). It's amazing to see Kid Powered Media harnessing all of this energy for such a great cause. In a culture where reading isn't always happening as much as it could be (for many reasons) learning through video is absolutely invaluable.

Hi Zyma,
This is a very interesting story about child worker in Dhaka. I really interesting to get little more information regarding existing government's policy on child protection and what's the possible action by the government after the project finish. In my hometown, we had similar project funded by save the children, but so many aspects involved in child labor issue that makes it hard to eradicate without good system that involve government, family, community and business sectors. Often after the project finish, everything comes back like before the project take place.

Carlin, your article on Kid Powered Media reminds me of something I came across a few years back. Back then (2005) there was an organisation in Mumbai called Sadak Chaap – literally 'Stamp of the Street' in Hindi – that had been created and was run by groups of street children.

With the help of several 'grown-up' groups (such as the NGO SPARC and the pavement dwellers organisation Mahila Milan), the children had succeeded in developing a series of forums in which they built conceptual bridges with previously unreachable sections of the city. The project was at the time already into its twentieth year and children gathered every evening to engage in improvisatory performances, 'jam sessions', in which, amongst other things, they addressed issues pertaining to the question of their own development.

These sessions influenced the creation of another forum: a triennial Mela (festival), that over the space of five days aimed at getting 5000-6000 boys together. During the festival the children spent time together engaging in many activities like cooking, watching films and hosting different cultural events. Often municipal authorities would be invited to come and interact with the participants, in order to open up spaces for negotiation for the children to put forth their respective concerns.

So my question is: does this organisation still exist (to the best of your knowledge) and if so has there been any kind of collaboration with Heywood's project?

Katy Fentress
URB.IM - Nairobi Community Manager

Hi Katy--thanks so much for this quest about the existence of Sadak Chaap. I had never heard of it until your post, but looking for its current status sent me on a delightful search through this organization's history. In fact, since Sadak Chaap works with pavement dweller children, it has led me to some interesting content that crosses over to an upcoming theme on homelessness (look for more on that soon!). What I thought you might be interested in--particularly given your multimedia background--is the audio documentary created about the children of Sadak Chaap: It was created by Julian Crandall Hollick, a Brit who has spent oodles of time in India, and most especially, with the pioneering pavement dwellers of Byculla, who helped launch the idea for SPARC, Sadak Chaap and subsequently Slum Dweller's International. Hollick followed the lives of these pavement dwellers, and for a decade, aired them on National Public Radio in the US, humanizing the daily struggles of Mumbai's homeless for an American audience. The result of all this material--beyond the radio program--is a book, Apna Street, which I've had on my bookshelf the last couple of years. Your question about Sadak Chaap led me back to my own living room, where I've finally dusted off the paperback and am reading through this fascinating story of how Mumbai's pavement dwellers in 1986 formed a women's collective to realize their dream of owning their own home. Thanks for getting me started on this exploration!

El artículo de Zyma Islam, en Dhaka, me recordó las implicaciones de las transferencias monetarias condicionadas. En el caso de México, existe el programa Jóvenes con Oportunidades, los cuales obtienen la transferencia monetaria por parte del gobierno si cumplen con la asistencia escolar requerida; de tal forma que obtienen el dinero para que puedan adquirir sus materiales escolares o para que den una aportación a la familia y no tengan que dejar la escuela para ir a trabajar; al graduarse de la educación básica o secundaria pueden tener más beneficios monetarios para iniciar un negocio, obtener un seguro médico o seguir con sus estudios. De igual manera a las familias se les otorga dinero para que satisfagan las necesidades del hogar como la alimentación. Sin embargo, que pasa en la práctica con este tipo de programas? ya que evaluaciones han demostrado que los jóvenes o las familias utilizan los recursos en otras necesidades que no necesariamente mejoran sus condiciones de vida o rompen con el ciclo de pobreza, no consumen mayor número de calorías o destinan recursos para mejorar sus viviendas, por ejemplo invierten el dinero en las fiestas patronales, los funerales o los quince años de las niñas. En este sentido, las transferencias monetarias ayudan a la familia a satisfacer necesidades, que no son necesariamente primarias, pero el impacto esperado en la pobreza no es alcanzado. De tal forma, dichas estrategias tienen que ser integradas a políticas que promuevan la generación de capacidades, pues como afirma Amartya Sen, son las capacidades las que brindaran oportunidades para que las personas en condiciones de pobreza logren superarla.

Dear Maria Fernanda, your comments and concerns are valid, and this is why it is important to nuance our assessment of cash transfers as part of poverty reduction strategies. Cash transfers are only a tool, a medium, and are not a panacea to eradicate poverty… but it remains that they can play a part in the process in certain cases or contexts. One reason for their limited potential or impact though is that among the root causes of poverty are the structural constraints that limit the options and opportunities of the poor, which is a key dimension of Sen’s capability framework, and that these constraints also limit their capacity to take risks. These constraints need to be addressed to increase the opportunities and capabilities of people dealing with poverty. The capability approach also contributed to the emergence of the livelihoods framework, first rural and then urban, to study the process of impoverishment and the obstacles the poor face in building their assets or forms of capital to increase their capability. This framework outlined the key role played by vulnerability (i.e. exposure to shocks) to analyze and understand the behavior and decisions made by poor communities, households and individuals in managing their asset portfolio. From these studies, it became clearer that the poor were investing their resources to balance the trade-off between vulnerability and poverty, or between security and income, as Chambers (1989) puts it, sometimes making decisions that might not have been considered optimal in terms of strict economic rationality and measurement, for example investing in social ties and networks due to the critical importance of social capital in times of crises. In addition to this, there is the problem or challenge of ‘fungibility’, meaning that people manage their budget as one portfolio or wallet and do not distinguish between the money received from a program vs. the money they received by other means. These are just two of the reasons why it is very difficult to qualify the use or consider it as misuse without further knowledge of the specific context. To learn more about the topic and to deepen our understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, potential and limits of cash transfers, there is a very interesting and accessible book by leading researchers in the field that explores the question of cash transfers: Just Give Money to the Poor, by Joseph Hanlon, Armando Barrientos and David Hulme (2010). The research on cash transfers in low-income countries shows that there is strong evidence that the poor are actually generally not doing a bad job at all at using cash transfers efficiently and at making thoughtful and strategic decisions: “The response has been an exceptional amount of research on southern cash transfer programs. And researchers have been surprised to find that, by and large, families with little money have honed their survival skills over generations and that they use a little extra money wisely and creatively – without armies of aid workers telling “the poor” how to improve themselves.” (Hanlon et al., 2010:4) I do think you raised very important questions and I hope this will stimulate discussion and reflection even further. Best, Christian

Several comments have been shared about the role of conditional cash transfers (CCT) in supporting low income children and their families in various developing countries. Just wanted to share some of the highlights from Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, the largest conditional cash transfer in the world with 13 million beneficiary families and almost 10 years of implementation:

Bolsa Familia is a very important platform to support low income children and their families in Brazil. As all CCTs, it provides monetary benefits to the poorest populations who comply with several conditionalities; this program has a basic benefit of R$70 (about US$38) that is given to extreme poor families regardless if they have children. But there are also additional benefits according to the number of children in the family, recognizing it’s not the same to raise one child than five children. So Bolsa Familia provides, in addition to the basic benefit, monthly benefits of R$32 (US$17) for every child in the family (up to five). According to various studies and evaluations most of these resources are used to purchase food and school material for children.

The program also supports child and adolescent enrollment in school. But what matters is the actual attendance. So the Bolsa Familia benefit is conditional to a monthly attendance of 85% for children 6- 15, and of 75% for adolescents 16-17. Even though there are enormous difficulties in monitoring monthly school attendance, Bolsa Familia has managed to develop an information system and the institutional capacities to follow up on this. What is most important is that beneficiaries who don’t comply with this conditionality aren’t automatically penalized; they are first called by the school to discuss difficulties to meet conditionalities and subsequently they prepare a “recovery plan” together with teachers and social workers. This effort is to ensure that families with the greatest vulnerabilities don’t lose their Bolsa Familia benefits.

Last but not least, I would like to highlight Bolsa Familia’s organization and transparency. It has managed to generate impressive coordination capacities among all involved in the program’s implementation at the federal, state and municipal levels. It has also promoted coordination among the education, health and social assistance sectors. This has been achieved over time by establishing clear policies, guidelines, and by promoting great amounts of trainings and capacity building sessions. In addition, Bolsa Familia has managed to establish local and national control bodies to oversee the implementation of the program and ensure its adequate use of resources.

Thank you Catalina for presenting this very interesting program. I particularly like the 'recovery plan' part, which is a more nuanced, flexible and adapted approach to deal with the problem or challenge. It reminds me of the Grameen II model for microfinance clients that was implemented in Bangladesh at the end of the 1990s in order to take into account the particular situation of the beneficiaries who had problems to repay, understanding that some elements are outside of their control and that simply cutting them off the program for good might just increase their vulnerability. Therefore, a 'recovery plan' could be established, adjusting amount and schedule of installments or allowing a 'pause' to the borrower, so that people could remain clients and come back to normal terms when the crisis has passed or when the situation or problem has been resolved. This does not address the need for support in moments of emergency or crisis (unlike microinsurance or access to social safety nets, for example), but it helps reduce the burden in the meantime. Even though they are difficult to manage and never perfect, these efforts to adapt and adjust approaches to the needs and the situation can really increase the benefits and the relevance of these programs for the poor. Thanks again for sharing.

Hi Carlin,

Loved reading about how film is being used to empower children. It's interesting seeing how this format is taking hold and applicable in many different cities. In Bangladesh, a team of young adults (around age 16) from underprivileged backgrounds have been trained in journalism and report on important issues they face in Dhaka from how power outages affect learning to how leftover wedding food is sold to street children. The program is called Shishuder Choke (in the eyes of children) and airs on ATN Bangla, a national news station. It's a partnership between UNICEF and several Bengali television organizations and aims to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Bangladesh. Seeing children's voices being taken seriously in the national media is certainly a new and innovative concept. It will hopefully be very empowering to other youth, especially in a country where street children are plentiful but overlooked and little discussed.

Anina, this is such a fantastic program. I've been looking for something like this in India, but haven't seem to come across anything. If I can recall correctly, one of our six city chiefs wrote about a similar program--anybody else remember this? What I really took away from my interview with Kid Powered Media is that children have views of what is going on around them, but they also have ideas for solutions. The way they approach the problems around them is so interesting, and I think it's important to incorporate their thoughts into planning, especially on issues that concern them. Thanks for sharing.

Hello widya anggraini

I wish I could give you a rosy outlook about the cash transfer programs I am talking about, but the unfortunate truth is what you mentioned is precisely the limitation of government schemes in developing countries. What I am talking about here is our enthusiasm about the inclusion of children in their social safety net program portfolio. However one good aspect about government funded social safety net programs in Bangladesh is that they are meant to continue and we have a history of increasing expenditure in this regard. This is by no means the solution, nor am i claiming that it is. However I do intend to point out that in a country where the majority of teh population lie beyond the reach of public social welfare, any expansion/addition in our social service sector is an improvement. This cash-transfer further caught my notice as something that might remain to be effective in the long run, because the project is being entirely organized and handled by Unicef. This disallows government corruption, and hopefully the development of the project will not get caught up in bureaucratic gridlocks.

Thank you Zyma for the reply. I definitely agree that program will be more effective if it is handled by Unicef. I dont mean to underestimate the government but with high level of corruption in government such as in Indonesia or Bangladesh, it would be wise to let Unicef lead the program and at the same time there will be transfer of knowledge on how to be transparent and effective in managing development programs.

widya anggraini

Hello Maria

You're right. These sort of programs need to be integrated capacity building, and perhaps what these programs lack most is an integrated approach to solving the problem. This is a pilot project and only in the long run can it be judged whether the cash grants have actually been used effectively to keep the children in school. This is the link to a survey done upon the distribution efficiency and scale of impact of the SSNPs in Bangladesh and you might want to check it out:

You will notice that this survey recognizes the importance of an expanding social welfare portfolio in a country that has very little. However from the numbers you also get a feeling that these could be boosted up to a reach an absolute that would hint at optimum efficiency.

My article was a positive commentary on the importance of intensifying social service programs....especially for a country that hugely lacks in it. We have to remember that private initiatives largely fail to achieve a macrolevel outreach, and no matter how incomplete government funded programs may be, they are often the easiest way of ensuring services are delivered to the people who need them.

Hi Zyma, thanks so much for your valuable comment and for this information about the impact of SSNP in Bangladesh. I agree with you that monetary transfers helps in order to achieve a porfolio of assets; and indeed government can deliver benefits to more people!

Gracias María Fernanda por tu artículo. Los comedores populares representan un modelo de cooperación comunitaria y de iniciativa local que no solamente permite mejorar la situación nutricional de las familias si no también consolidar el capital social de las comunidades, entre otros temas. Otra ventaja es que la gente puede cosechar el resultado de su propio trabajo y de sus propios esfuerzos, ¡lo que ‘alimenta’ su autoestima además de su barriga! Este ejemplo de solidaridad comunitaria ha sido muy importante en varias partes de América latina, por ejemplo en Lima y particularmente en Villa El Salvador donde los comedores jugaron un papel clave de movilización y de organización social durante los años ochenta y noventa. Allí, las mismas familias beneficiarias manejan los comedores y cocinan en turno. Me parece que debe ser algo parecido con el sistema del CSM, pero no me quedó cien porcientos claro, así que tal vez puedas elaborar un poco más sobre el sistema de operación, de trabajo y de gobernanza de los comedores del CSM. Gracias por aclarar y/o confirmarlo.

Estimado Christian, gracias por tus valiosos comentarios, tanto del esquema de operación del CMS, como de las transferencias monetarias. Con respecto a la implementación del CMS, en este caso no son las familias quiénes lo operan y mantienen, sino es una organización civil que se ha ido expandiendo en las zonas urbanas más necesitadas de la Cd. de México. El CMS tiene una bodega central en donde almacena y clasifica los alimentos y los distribuye a los 16 comedores que están operando actualmente; en cada comedor se cuenta con un encargado y dos cocineras, quiénes atienden a los niños, además de darles platicas y pequeños talleres en donde enseñan valores; de tal forma los beneficiarios no participan en la operación, pero sí deben de desarrollar un tipo de corresponsabilidad. Por ejemplo, cada familia beneficiaria debe de ir a lavar los trastes una vez al mes y los niños deben de mostrar su control de asistencias y calificaciones escolares; en este sentido es una condicionalidad para continuar con el programa de manera que en cierta forma se obliguen a continuar sus estudios, mas no para la implementación del propio proyecto. Lo que comentas es un muy buen modelo en donde las familias podrían intervenir para que se apropie del proyecto en las comunidades y se generen más lazos, o se puedan mejorar los comedores. El CSM depende de las aportaciones y donaciones de otros actores para su operación, ya que el costo que pagan las familias por la comida de los niños es muy bajo y no es la intención que el comedor se sostenga de esas cuotas; sin embargo, con la contribución de las familias tal vez podrían tener más alcance sin elevar los costos de implementación.
Gracias por tus aportaciones, las cuáles contribuyen a tener ciudades más justas. Te esperamos en esta y siguientes discusiones!

Gracias María Fernanda por las clarificaciones. Me queda mucho más claro ahora. Como lo comentas, la idea de involucrar a las familias en la gestión de los comedores puede aumentar o multiplicar los beneficios, además de consolidar el sentido de apropiación (“ownership”). ¡Gracias otra vez por tu contribución!

Another interesting article on children living in jakarta slums published by Jakarta Post. Children in Bantar Gebang, Indonesia’s largest rubbish dump spend the afternoon working alongside their parents, sorting and shredding plastic, cutting cans, packing and picking rubbish directly from the heaps. By the age of 10, many children will have stopped attending school to work full-time in the landfill. What the children earn is vital income for the family, between Rp 20,000 (US$2) and Rp 50,000 rupiah a day.

Yuyun Harmono Jakarta Community Manager

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