Today, as Georgia moves forward on its path to joining the European community and continues striving towards progress, an equal start for all children and the creation of a fair and tolerant society become incremental issues for development.
Unfortunately, for nearly 2,000 children in Georgia, the day does not begin with a focus on education. Instead, those 2,000 children are struggling to survive on the streets of Tbilisi; standing at the crossroads, in subway stations, close to shops and trading centers, or next to churches, begging and trying to sell small items to earn the daily bread for their families. These children are subject to exploitation from early childhood and they are stigmatized by being called “street children”. Seen as dirty and dangerous, they are deprived of their childhood and carry the burden of an adult on their shoulders.
World Vision has built up experience of supporting street children in Georgia since 2013. At present the organization runs three daycare/crisis intervention centers (two in Tbilisi and one in Kutaisi) to provide drop-in, educational and psycho-social rehabilitation services for children living and working in the streets. The services meet basic care and development needs of vulnerable children and offer them alternatives to street life and gradually integrate them into mainstream society. Through this services over 600 children have been reached. World Vision helps them access quality education and attain functional levels of literacy, numeracy and essential life skills. World Vision lifeskill trainings supports developing the self-consciousness, interpersonal relations, critical thinking, social responsibility, communication and stress management skills.
To break the cycle of violence, and to ensure a decent life for every child that is free of violence and focused on development, World Vision Georgia joined the World Vision global partnership campaign “It Takes A World to End Violence Against Children” with a specific focus to combat child exploitation on the streets. “ The local campaign with the name « Not My Choice » envisages rising general public awareness that child already in the street is the result of multiple vulnerabilities and giving change when passed-by is not charity act the majority of us would perceive. Through different channels World Vision Georgia strives to better educate the general population on how we can support the positive change if efforts are united.” Said Eka Zhvania, World Vision Georgia Opperations Director.
With the Not My Choice campaign, that includes various activities World Vision invites all relevant stakeholders, government representatives, international organisations, NGOs, civil society, academia, the private sector, and children themselves, to join efforts in recognising the issue of child exploitation on the streets, to raise awareness and create space for children living and working on the streets to become equal members of the society.
Street art is one of the significant parts of the campaign in terms of awareness raising and combating stigma. With emotional visuals and messages the campaign takes action to spread the voices of vulnerable young people to challenge negative stereotypes. Arts were made in streets of Tbilisi and Kutaisi. Main idea of the campaign is to change public attitude towards children living in the streets, so that they do not feel misunderstood and mistreated by their local communities.
to change the attitude to the relations with these children and act accordingly, as giving money to children in streets is not solution.