PARENTAL neglect, violence and abuse is fast driving children to the streets, a child rights expert and social science researcher has opined. According to Koshuma Mtengeti, who is also the Executive Director of the Children's Dignity Forum (CDF) children were now migrating to the streets due to sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
"We have, in the recent past, witnessed a surge in cases of violence against children and this is alarming," observed Mr Mtengeti while officiating a special police officers training on Gender Desk.
Other factors that force children to find solace on the streets include mental health issues, substance abuse, sexual orientation and gender identity, according to Mr Mtengeti.
"Maltreatment involves physical, sexual and psychological/emotional violence; and neglect of infants, children and adolescents by parents, caregivers and other authority figures, most often in the home but also in settings such as schools and orphanages," he added.
There are an estimated 437,500 street children in Tanzania. Many live on the street because of the violence and abuse they suffered at home. Many more face daily abuse on the streets from the police, sex tourists and even each other.
The gender desk initiative was first proposed in 2009 by the Tanzanian Police Female Network (TPFNet), a professional association formed in 2007 that aims to improve the way the police relate to women in the community. The initiative gained financial and operational support from UNICEF and the European Union, and by 2012, there was a network of 417 desks in police stations across the country.
The ultimate goal is to establish the desks in every police station and to train thousands of police officers, particularly women, to staff them.