Friday, March 18, 2005

Information about Street Children in Indonesia

Background: The issue of street children first emerged in early 1980s when less than ten NGOs were working in this area and the government refused to acknowledge the existence of street children.

Post-1997 (economic crisis) larger numbers of children, with younger children and a larger proportion of girls, started seeking a livelihood in the streets as evidenced by 1998 Asian Development Bank (ADB) mapping.

The government finally acknowledged the problem of ‘street children’ and with the support of a UNDP grant and ADB loan, their ‘Rumah Singgahh’ (drop-in shelter) was launched.

Before the crisis most street children were separated from parents and living on the streets. After the crisis about 70% of ‘street children’ are working on the streets, but living at home. Push factors: 23% mention psychosocial problems at home, particularly violence and negligence, as their main reason to leave home (1995 study of homeless street children); in East Java and Aceh, NGOs report children fleeing ethnic conflict / being separated from their parents by conflict.

Definitions and statistics:

The term "anak jalanan" (street children) was once a taboo word in Indonesia – considered "subversive", or anti-development in 1980s but is now accepted. All children who live outside their homes and do economic activities in the street are now called street children. With this definition, children forced into prostitution and working children can also be called street children. Even some teenagers hanging out in the street are sometimes called street children.

Street children’s own terms include: "gembel" (‘vagrant’); "glanet" (‘a well dressed vagrant’); "tikyan" (‘a little but enough’); "rendan" for female street children.

Statistics vary widely according to definition, e.g. at least 39,861 street children in 12 big cities in Indonesia (1998); 75,000 street children nationwide (1993- 2003); 50,761 street children nationwide (2003, Department of Social Welfare). 90% of total street children were boys according to 1995 research. However, more recent surveys through Save the Children’s programmes found that around 40% of street children engaged in NGO programmes are girls.

Achievements: The government has not decreed any special law / act on street children.

Since 1992, USAID, UNDP, UNICEF, ADB, AusAID, ILO-IPEC, CIDA, Japanese and British Embassies have funded projects on (e.g.) model protection for street children with special needs; establishing and improving LPA (Child Protection Association) at provincial level; prevention and health services for prostituted children; supporting NGO work with street children in Indonesia’s four largest cities.

NGO networks that specifically address work with street children are: Consortium for Indonesian Street Children, National Forum for Shelter Communication, Forumaji (list-serv on the internet at, Gejayan Caucus, litigation and paralegal networks, advocacy networks, campaign networks. Five conferences on street children were held in Indonesia between 1995 and 2002.

Constraints and challenges: Negative stigma; lack of economic opportunities – linked to economic crisis – for street children and their parents which causes particular programming obstacles / dead end for children when they reach 18; unable to access government facilities or services, such as education and healthcare due to lack of birth certificate; lack of clear definition of ‘street children’ results in lack of proper demographic data impeding advocacy; alternative care for children separated from families is not yet an important consideration in street children programmes.

Lessons learned: Stigmatisation can only be overcome by active community participation in street children programmes, meaning that such programmes should be inclusive and facilitate local responses to street children’s needs.

Shelter programme undertaken by the Indonesian government is considered ineffective because street children are seen merely as objects. It is also considered insensitive in the local context of street children (the programme was designed by the central government in Jakarta); allegations of corruption.

Vocational training programmes have had limited success: the Social Safety Net programme provided both training and credit, with very few cases of success; Save the Children’s support for vocational training through NGOs has also seen few children successfully making the transition from the street into productive jobs; of eight NGO programmes reviewed, only 53 of 322 (16%) children who received vocational training were able to secure an alternative income as a result of the vocational course.

Street children programmes should be sensitive to characteristics of street children themselves whose living pattern is distinct from other children in general, e.g. the Indonesian Ministry of Education out-of-school learning method that allows children the freedom to determine their school hours and decide when they feel ready to take exams.

Projects for street children should be differentiated on the grounds of age, residential status and school status: given that many street children live at home and still attend school, programmes to prevent family separation and school dropout are more relevant for most of Indonesia’s street children. The focus for older, homeless youth should be transition off the streets into productive adulthood.

Recommendations: For national government: the ratification of CRC should be by law act, not by only presidential decree which ranks much lower in the hierarchy of national legislation; develop the policy on alternative care for street children who generally live separately from their family; facilitate national level helplines for children.

For local government: facilitate the establishment of children’s centres and helplines at local level; increase access to government services, such as healthcare, free schooling, birth certificates and identity cards.

For civil society: strengthen the networks of NGOs working with street children at local level; involve the community in street children care programmes; give space for children to participate actively in the programmes.

For local donors: facilitate employment of street children as apprentices or in jobs; support alternative education for street children; provide support to children to stay in school, and seek jobs as appropriate.

Direct words from street children (Yayasan Anak Nusantara, Jakarta, June 2002):

"What’s the use of my getting higher education if I don’t get a job in the end anyway? I’d better make money from now on";

"NGOs and government people just want to make money for themselves by making projects on street children. Those people are getting richer and street children are still poor and living in the street";

"It’s no use to take me back to my parents. They are divorced and married to someone else now. Where to go home?";

"Before I had no purpose; I had no idea; I wouldn’t acknowledge this life, just followed my feet, step by step - the broken wings of my dreams".

Why are you on the streets?:

"My parents liked to fight, I couldn’t stand it in the house anymore so I took off for Jakarta" (16-year-old boy);

"My parents died. I lived at an Islamic boarding school for five years and never saw my family. So I bolted from the boarding school" (12- year-old boy);

"Because things were tough economically I was often beaten by my parents. That’s why I fled from home" (16-year-old boy);

"My older brother urged me to hit the streets because of the economy" (12-year-old girl);

"My parents divorced, so I caught the train to Jakarta"
(13-year-old boy).

What do you do to survive?: "I busk and sell papers, polish shoes, and help out at a
restaurant" (16-year-old boy);

"Busk, jump car rides for tips, I’ve slept in front of the bus terminal" (13-year-old boy);

"I beg, sing on the streets, umbrella boy and scavenge" (17-year-old boy);

What kind of problems do you experience on the streets?:

"I’ve been raped, and I have to clean the train if I want to sell food on the train" (16-year-old boy);

"My friend got all busted up with a bamboo stick, and now the other kids make fun of him because he’s crippled" (17-year-old boy);

"I’m always forced to hand over money, and my friends want to kiss me" (16-year-old girl);

"I been raped and I’ve been bashed up" (17-year-old boy);

What do you do to handle the violence, and who helps you?:

"You have to struggle when someone wants to rape you, and you have to fight when the cops try and grab you. Nobody can help you, you’ve got to help yourself " (16-year-old boy);

"Just keep your mouth shut. The mosque manager can help you out. Also, make a stick out of wood" (17-year-old boy);

"Give them what they want. But you have to fight them off when they try and kiss you" (16-year-old girl).

Case studies

• Delik is 15 years old and his daily work is busking and scavenging. He first went to the street with his father, who worked as a scavenger. KAKI (NGO) has been working with him since 1999. At the age of 13, Delik was arrested for stealing and spent one year in jail. As a result of support by KAKI’s outreach workers, Delik has started a savings account and participated in informal education programmes. (KAKI Jakarta, November 2002)

• "The benefits I feel from being a part of the study group, I can read better and I’m no longer scared to get homework from school. I go to school, but before I never cared about school. Before I went to school I would sing in the streets for money, and then when I got home from school I never had time to study. My parents don’t really care about my school. They never ask about what I study. I can’t blame them because they are busy working, so they don’t have time to care about whether I study. Even though they work all the time, they can’t meet our needs so I sing for money to help my parents out.

Actually, not only I sing for money but also my three brothers and sisters. But now I don’t worry about studying, because Yasin (outreach worker, SPMAA) always comes by and asks about my homework. He helps me study, and gives me motivation and other information that really helps me out. I am thankful to SPMAA, who cares about me. And hopefully my next report card is good so that they aren’t disappointed… pray for me!" (Arista Rahayu, female, 10 years old, Surabaya (SPMAA), October 2001)

This report is taken from "A Civil Society Forum for East and South East Asia on Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Street Children", 12-14 March 2003 – Bangkok, Thailand. A full version of the Civil Society forum report is also available on the CSC website.


Blogger Joe Rose said...

Thank you for your concern and kindness. How can I help?

3:15 PM  

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