How to improve the reintegration of (ex) street-girls in Kinshasa?
War Child is an NGO I had the opportunity to meet a couple years ago during a MHPSS meeting, at the time they presented their DEAL-toolkits and were working with the WHO on a psychological first aid kit (PFA).
I have the chance to start a collaboration with WC-UK, on one of their programme that supports vulnerable girls and young women living and working in the streets of Tshangu district, in Kinshasa. My role will be to support their team and run a longitudinal, ethnographic research on the socio-economic reintegration of the girls. It is a great opportunity!
I have been involved a lot in reintegration processes for vulnerable children, after situations of violence, abuse, trafficking, migration or a street experience. Reintegration always is tricky, and what works for one child will not work for another.
The reasons why kids live on the street are different for each one, we can see patterns, but their experience is unique, and social workers need to be ready to understand and see why, for the child, going on the street was a reasonnable decision, or was a traumatic experience.
Then there is the life on the street. From outside we often associate it with negative situations: lack of, risks, crime, prostitution, violence, drugs,... most of whom are true. For the kids and young adults living outside, there is also another reality, where street life can be associated with protection, security, group of friends, freedom, identity, strenght,... Talking about reinsertion demand to start a negociation with the child, asking him to leave the street to go back to a society that rejected him, abused him or was so difficult for him to live in that he had to turn to the streets.
Street children need to be respected and heard before all.
The 9 months Participative Action Research I have the priviledge of leading will be very exciting, in bringing together social workers, vulnerable girls and young women and members of the Tshangu Community, to work on the best ways to include the girls better, socially and economically in Kinshasa's society. Quite an exciting challenge!