IRSHAD SALIM (Islamabad) –‘Razia’ (I’ve named her) is one of the 1.5 million street children we have in our country and the number’s growing if our youth bulge is a benchmark to consider.
According to a survey, ‘Razia’ (female) belongs to the 6% of the 1.5m figure– and the rest (94 %) are boys.
Gender aside, several reasons are cited for these children living on the streets. Of these, 56 % run away due to domestic violence, 22 % have left madrassas and schools, and the other 22 % work to support their families.
Bottom line: they need help on micro level to start with. Some of them say they were forced out on the streets to support their families due to household poverty.So they’re part of our ‘unaccounted’ workforce. But have skills–earning daily no matter what.
On traffic lights and on major intersections, these children like ‘Razia’ are often found selling various items, vulnerable to all sorts of crimes, rebukes, pollution and diseases. One thing differentiates them though from the rest of the crowd they belong to: while rest ‘beg’, they earn their daily living on the adrenaline called self-esteem. When self-respect is in danger, most don’t budge. Stoicism works. Because they’re selling somethings while others may be begging.
I wonder how many of these self-employed albeit entrepreneurial street children comprise as a percentage of our youth bulge–experts say the bulge is 56 to 65 percent of our 207m population. So it would be fair to suggest that this motley group should be crowdfunded, even angel investors could come forward. How?
Some techie entrepreneur like Rabeel Warraich should launch a startup and raise a venture capital fund for these ‘self-esteeemed’, self-employed youth entrepreneurs. If they can make a living daily against all odds and hazards, they are trained ‘risk-takers’ who if enabled and empowered could possibly do wonders. But wait, they are stigmatized by the society on daily basis, frowned upon and even yelled at–rather we should respect them for earning not begging. Watch this video how Razia monetizes her time day in and day out:
May be we should give them license (permit) to earn on the streets and teach them how to file tax return even if they do not earn more than the threshold. We’ll be broadening the tax base and at the same time bringing them into financial inclusiveness. Buzzwords no? Yes, and forget other ones like “protection”, “rights”, “laws for street children”, etc. –all we need is a startup and these kids could become examples for others to follow–including ‘rule of law’, as they grow up and some of them become taxpayers, if not nation builders.
When they look back they’ll have reason to love Ma (the state) also.
(The writer is a business & construction consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb, DesPardes and BE2C2 Report and presently based in Islamabad)