We added Kolkata to StreetInvest's Global Network in 2012. Since that time, we have not only delivered training to support our partners but have also been able to help create a pool of local trainers in India to continue to build local capacity.
We have supported two original partners, Child in Need Institute (CINI) and Little Big Help (LBH) to strengthen and expand their Street Work. In 2017, we entered into our first Regional Coordinating Partnership (RCP) for Asia with CINI. CINI has been working with street-connected children on the platforms of Kolkata’s largest railway stations since 1989.
Our joint aim is to build a regional network of local Street Work partners and reduce the stigma, discrimination, and abuse that street-connected children face in Kolkata. Our support is framed in the Four Pillars of (1) Informing through data collection and research; (2) Influencing through advocacy and awareness-raising; (3) Building the capacity of CINI and the network members through training and mentoring; and (4) Strengthening the sustainability of the network and CINI. Central to all four pillars Is children’s participation in the process of bringing about change.
Since 2016, CINI has held 220 workshops with 8,320 community stakeholders, including the police, TTE, community mothers and community leaders to challenge attitudes towards street-connected children.
CINI has been a constant champion of children’s participation. Over the past two years they have held 193 focus group discussions with a total 1,283 street-connected children. This resulted in the development of a Street Champions program which has empowered 147 local young street-connected children to advocate for and support their peers.
The network in Kolkata has now not only grown to include 20 local agencies but has engaged with the West Bengal Commission on the Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR). After six years of joint work, we have reached a point where support for street-connected children is about to be trialled as a core part of an integrated child protection system in the city for the first time.
Street Champions lead the way in Kolkata
In 2019, StreetInvest and CINI, with funding from Wellcome Trust, embarked on a ground-breaking participatory research project, training and supporting 30 Street Champions to be researchers and advocates with a focus on improving access to health and wellbeing support among their peers. The project, now extended to June 2021, for the first time uses StreetInvest’s participatory Vulnerability and Service Mapping framework, based on UN guidance on street children’s rights and adapted locally by Street Champions themselves, to understand children’s lives and support needs and identify gaps in support, something which has become even more crucial during the pandemic. So far 500 children have contributed through surveys and focus groups undertaken by Street Champions trained as peer researchers using methods developed during StreetInvest and University of Dundee’s Growing Up on the Streets project.
When Covid-19 struck, swiftly followed by the devastating Cyclone Amphan, these Street Champions became a lifeline for hundreds of other children living and working on the streets of Kolkata who were without food, clean water, hygiene supplies or information on how to stay safe from the virus. With Street Workers unable to reach communities during lockdowns, Street Champions have ensured that the most vulnerable in their communities have the support they need, acting as peer supporters and peer educators on the virus and securing relief and protection for their communities through advocacy with local authorities and police.
For more information on StreetInvest’s work with CINI in Kolkata, and our participatory research and advocacy with street children, please contact our Director of Programmes Sian Wynne.