There are more than 5000 children living and working on the streets of Nepal. These children are among the most vulnerable in society, frequently falling victim to some of the worst forms of child labor and exploitation. Street children are misunderstood, negatively viewed and stigmatized by a large portion of society. This social misunderstanding only serves to compound the challenges these children face on a day to day basis.
Street children exist in all of Nepal’s major cities and towns. As the population grows, and urban poverty spreads, the number of children living and working on the streets is increasing. Because of the extreme nature of their situations and lack of adult support, many street children are misused and exploited. Ultimately, most of these children remain trapped in the vicious cycle of street life, and often with very limited support.
Due to the current political situation and recent armed conflict, the number of street children has increased. Though there is no current, reliable estimate into the number of children living on the streets, it is clear that numbers are considerably more than they were before the conflict situation escalated – much of this is a result of the large number of displaced people from village areas across Nepal.
There are obviously many hardships that street children face, but one of the greatest challenges is the general misunderstanding by society. Street children are negatively viewed and stigmatized by many people, and often labeled with the derogatory term “Khate.” Ultimately, this social misunderstanding makes it extremely difficult for street children to leave the street and become respected members of the community they live in.
The Socioeconomic Situation of Street Children
The socioeconomic situation faced by street children is complicated, and it would be inaccurate to suggest all street children have come from similar backgrounds or are in a similar situations.
Of all children on the street, an overwhelming 96% are boys. Girls are far less likely to leave their families than boys, however once girls do leave their homes due to their vulnerability they tend not to live on the street. Instead, the majority of out-of-home girls tend to find themselves as domestic child workers or carpet factory workers. The reality is that girls who leave their home often become exploited in the sex industry from a young age. Sadly, a huge number of these girls are trafficked outside of Nepal for sex work in India.