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Making street children count in Mombasa

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Making street children count in Mombasa this week…

It might be less than a week to Christmas, but we have not slowed down. Hugo has been in Mombasa, Kenya, since the 9th December with the Glad’s House team, where a citywide headcount is taking place. Hugo is with Glad’s House Directors Liz and Bokey and their street work team. Other organisations across the city are also taking part (some of whom pictured).

Glad’s House have been operating in Mombasa since 2006 and reach over 100 young people a month through outreach walks alone and have contact with another 500 through activities. They are unsure what percentage of street-connected young people in the city this represents.

The count will provide clarity to their team and the wider network of organisations they are working with in Mombasa, and will shape their strategy for reaching more young people on the streets. It will also provide official statistics for the county government and will facilitate further discussion about street child policy in Mombasa.

The headcount has been in the pipeline for nearly 18 months and was made a reality when StreetInvest hit its Big Give campaign target last year, which went towards funding the partnership programme between StreetInvest and Glad’s House.

Street workers at the heart of the process

The headcount team is made up of professionals from across the sector including a large number of street workers. We heard about a rather frightening moment when a young person, who was known to the Glad’s House team, asked the headcounters to leave his area and bought out a machete. The street workers knew the young man personally and were able to diffuse the situation, keeping both him and the team safe. Their expertise in such situations is invaluable.

Also on the team are StreetInvest Global Trainers Tijani and Fred Mbise, who works at Railway Children, both of whom bring their own personal experiences of headcounts in Ghana and Tanzania respectively.

What is a headcount?

A headcount is a social research and measurement methodology, which is particularly useful for gathering data on migrating population and those who are not captured by household censuses.

This count will be conducted using StreetInvest’s headcount methodology. It is based purely on looking, listening and learning and does not rely on street children to participate.

The process is a challenging one, physically, mentally and psychologically. The team divides into smaller groups to go to the streets where they numerate the children using observational techniques. The data are organised by perceived age bracket, gender and occupation. The counts are counter checked by another team and group discussions are held after each count to corroborate data. It’s a time-intensive process: a total of eight counts will be held over four days, half of which are night counts.

We are grateful to the team who are deeply committed and also we hear, tired! We thank all involved for their dedication this week.

A tool for advocacy

The count has leveraged significant government engagement. It was commissioned by the Mombasa County Commission with the Department of Children’s Services and Department of Youth, Gender and Sports and the Interior Ministry, the Inspectorate Police and Kenya Bureau of Statics. A follow up workshop is planned for the New Year with government stakeholders and the NGOs involved, to plan a response and next steps.

A full report will be published early next year.

Thanks to the following NGOs for making this possible: Glad’s House, Railway Children, WEMA, Onesmus, MCK, SDA, Humble Generation, YGS, P2P and Stepping Stone.

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