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Up until 1993 the term 'street child' was not offically part of the Indian Government's language. This is a troubling oversight in a country with the largest population of street children in the world - more than 11 million according to conservative estimates in 1994 by UNICEF. Human Rights Watch estimates the numbers of street-working and street-living kids are currently closer to 18 million. The increase in numbers of street children is blamed on high unemployment rates, rapid urbanization, family break-ups, armed conflicts, migration from rural to urban areas, increasing disparities in wealth, poverty, HIV/AIDS, natural and man-made disasters.

There are twice as many boys on the streets as girls.

Imagine over half of the population of Canada being under 18 years in age, and living on the streets in poverty, and you will have an understanding of the magnitude of the problem.


There are so many reasons young people in India turn to the streets for their survival.

Some children are orphaned by disease or accident, but, many of the young people who live on the streets have a parent who is still alive.

It is not uncommon for mothers and their children to end up on the streets when their husbands divorce them or die. The mothers, with few means to support their families and no rights to inherit the fathers wealth, have few alternatives.

Some youth have been abandoned by their parents and forced to fend for themselves. Sometimes there is violence or neglect in their family and the street is a better option than what they endure at home. Some young people work on the streets because their parents are unemployed, sick or their families are impoverished. The lucky ones return to their home to sleep, others join their families who also live on the pavement, or sleep alone or with groups of other street children. 

Most of the young people on the streets have some sort of job. According to a study conducted by N.S. Manihara "the activities and occupations undertaken by street children in India to earn a living include:
          Collecting and selling waste paper, plastic, scrap metal etc.
          Cleaning cars and two-wheelers,
          Selling water, sweets, biscuits, clothes etc.
          Selling newspapers and flowers on streets
          Making and selling flower garlands
          Begging, pimping, prostituting, pick pocketing, stealing
          Working in roadside stalls or repair shops
          Coolie work or working in small hotels (kitchens etc)"

Often their work is short term. Too often they are fired, mistreated or not paid.

Set against a backdrop of these hardships, Reel Youth traveled to India to work with these marginalized young people.
Meet the young street kids, watch videos, see pictures and read stories from our travels in India on our blog.


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Artwork by Jordan Bent