Rwanda is a landlocked country with a population of about 10.9 million as of 2011 (World Bank). It is situated in central Africa and is one of Africa’s most densely populated countries with an average of 373 people per square kilometre. The population is composed mainly of young people. In 2005, youth under 25 represented 2/3 of the population.
In recent years, Rwanda has managed to achieve a good level of economic growth. However, there is still much to be achieved. In 2006, almost 57 percent of the population still lived in poverty, while levels of inequality were on the rise. A number of categories of the population are particularly vulnerable to poverty including older people, those living with disabilities, young children, female-headed households, genocide survivors and the historically marginalized. Young people are a group that also needs support, given the difficulties many have in finding jobs due to low skill levels.
The Rwandan child has experienced suffering due to bad governance, which has characterized the country in a context of poverty before, during and even after the colonization. The genocide of 1994, the culminating point of the bad management of the republic, resulted in the loss of 1,074,017 human lives, 50.1% among them less than 18 years old. This history has deprived the children of the land of the thousand hills of their foremost right, the right to live. The surviving children of this humanitarian catastrophe have also been deprived of the environment necessary to support their full development and journey into a thriving adulthood. Rwanda’s government supports the development of children on paper, and it is now a time to turn policy into action.
Rwandan Law No. 27/2001 of 28 April 2001 concerns the rights of the child and the protection of children against violence. Furthermore, the Government is signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child (1990) which constitutes the formal obligations of the Government in the field of the rights and responsibilities of the child. The obligations of the child are stipulated in all of these documents and in particular is evident in Article 31 of the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child and in Articles 25-27 of the Rwandan law No. 27/2001.
Despite this commitment, Rwanda has the highest proportion of orphans and child-headed households in the world, according to a 2005 UNICEF report. Many children lost their parents in the genocide - now HIV/AIDS is creating more orphans. In 2006, Rwanda’s minister of gender and families estimated 1.2 million children were orphaned and vulnerable. Many of these children have received aid from charities or were adopted, but a 2002 UNICEF study estimated 7,000 street children lived in Rwanda, 3,000 in the capital alone. Their lives are bleak.
The principal goal of my life and my project, Hope for the Future, is to improve the well-being of street children. A street child is a child who lives on the streets of a city, deprived of family care and protection. Most children on the streets are between the ages of about 5 and 17 years old, and their population between different cities is varied. Street children live in junk boxes, parks or on the street itself. A great deal has been written defining street children, but the primary difficulty is that there are no precise categories, but rather a continuum, ranging from children who spend some time in the streets and sleep in a house with ill-prepared adults, to those who live entirely in the streets and have no adult supervision or care.
Rwanda is currently aiming to reduce poverty overall, which would benefit youth. The Global Objective of the social protection sector is to: build a social protection system that tackles poverty and inequality, enables the poor to move out of poverty, helps reduce vulnerability and protect people from shocks, helps improve health and education among all Rwandans, and contributes to economic growth.
The focus of the Strategy in the next five years (2011-2016) is to:
a) harmonize and coordinate different interventions to respond to the needs of the poor and vulnerable; b) build on and extend existing cash transfer programmes, extend access to public services to the poorest households;
c) begin to extend contributory social security mechanisms;
d) deliver complementary programmes to assist households to graduate;
e) build leadership and capacity across government on social protection and strengthen the alignment of non-governmental actors with national priorities, and
f) strengthen systems and structures for delivery of social protection
The lives of young people and an older generation are tied in Rwanda. There are currently an estimated 328,000 people over 65 years of age, but only 24,300 (7.4 percent) have access to a pension from the Social Security Fund for Rwanda (SSFR). Older people suffer from increasing social exclusion and many have to take care of orphans and children of migrants at a time in their lives when they would be expected to be taken care of themselves. These households – and their children – are particularly vulnerable in the absence of assistance from government.
Many Rwandan young people have had very difficult backgrounds, often growing up without parents as a result of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis. Indeed, there is a poverty rate of 69.5% among youth, and 54.5% are living in absolute poverty, while 15% are relatively poor. Poverty in childhood has meant that many have suffered nutritionally and do not have sufficient education and skills to find employment. Some young people continue to face psycho-social challenges as a result of the traumas they have experienced. Without jobs or opportunities to earn for themselves, these young people face a difficult future. They are a group that needs particular attention, as recognised by the recent creation of the Rwandan Ministry for Youth.
I am here to support MINALOC’s objectives, the values of unity, equity, democracy, sustainable development and patriotism. And The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion is mandated to coordinate the formulation and implementation of national policies, strategies and programs regarding the promotion of gender, family and children’s rights. Under its policy and strategic plan of action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, it provides and coordinates all support to orphans and other vulnerable children with emphasis on the Most Vulnerable through a minimum package of services which comprises health, nutrition, education, shelter, protection and psycho social support.
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, and housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. But street children are not.
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