16 Days of Activism…on the streets: the long and short of it

The “short” of it:

Yes, I am a small, white American guy (child activist, social worker, rapper, blah blah blah!).

Yes! I will be living on the streets of downtown Cape Town for the 16 Days of Activism against violence towards women and children (25 November – 10 December 2008)!

The “long” of it:

I have lived in Cape Town for more than eight years now, working amongst the youth living on the streets of Cape Town, and in the various communities that they come from. I have seen quite a few “16 Days of Activism” come and go, and I always experience mixed emotions; I think it is wonderful that we have dedicated 16 days towards speaking out against violence of women and children, but I also feel that 365 days of our year should be dedicated to this cause! Since I do spend 365 days out of the year fighting for this cause, this year I decided to spend the “16 Days” doing something a little more radical.

From the 25th of November to the 10th of December 2008, I will be living on the streets of downtown Cape Town, in protest of children being “allowed” to live on the streets. In my work with the youth of Cape Town, I have found that the children who find their way to the streets of Cape Town have been failed by their communities, let down by their families, disillusioned by the education system, and “aborted” by society as a whole. Though they come from impoverished communities and difficult situations, they, as children, have been given the “choice” to live on the streets, and many of them chose the streets over their previous situations. Life on the street sucks the child in and that child soon becomes a small adult, taking part in various activities of street life that rob them of their innocence (drugs, child labor, selling their bodies for money, violence, to name just a few).

I feel strongly that it is child abuse to allow a child to make the choice to live on the streets! A child should not be given a decision to make that he or she is not mature enough to make. That is why we have ages of consent for things such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, voting, sex, and so on. However, by “allowing” children to live on the street, we are allowing them to forfeit each and every right the constitution lays out for them. As the 2010 Soccer World Cup approaches, and the pressure mounts to “put on a good face” for the rest of the world, our efforts and initiatives to “clean the streets” should be with the best interests of the children in mind, and not the best interests of business or tourism! We have to take this “adult decision” away from our children and allow them to be children!

So, for the “16 Days” I will be living on the streets in protest of this; calling for more structures of support (for youth) to be built up in our communities, a revival of the education system in impoverished communities, and a general awakening of society to see that these are OUR children and we have the responsibility to look after them! I will sleep on the streets, rely on handouts and various feeding schemes for food, will not wash or brush my teeth unless I come across the utensils needed to do so, and live and survive on the streets in the same manner that our children do. I will only be taking a blanket, the clothes on my back, and a couple of books with me; no money, no cell phone, or anything else. I am asking you to give whatever support and coverage you can for this cause!

During the 16 Days I also hope to give daily reports on this blog (with a prepaid internet account at an internet cafe in downtown Cape Town), so watch this space!!


12 Responses to 16 Days of Activism…on the streets: the long and short of it

  1. The Purpose Driven Youth says:

    Hey dude, you have my full support and the backing of our organisation if you need us in any way to help with logistics or just anything. It saddens me to live in a city called,” The Mother City” while this “Mother” treats some of her children as animals. Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might as you step out and take this bold stand

  2. ClaireScotland says:

    Hey Ryan, I just want to take another opportunity to thank you for pumping the Youth Zone at the Khayelitsha Festival. I have included you in the official report.

    My insight into street children is shallow, most of my experiences with them ie. in Long Street have been somewhat negative, always asking for money and on 2 occassions have been physically abusive. I haven’t seen any love…

    I have been told that they are ‘owned’ by gangsters, usually Nigerians that manipulate them and turn them into beggers. I don’t give them money because they don’t keep it and it teaches them to just take and take when life doesn’t work like this.

    I want to help but I wouldn’t know where to start as I have no experience in dealing with street children in SA. Please advise me if you may. I live in the city. It disgusts me that there is no help for the children, no institutions set up by the City / Province. It would be interesting to know what they are doing to combat this problem.

    Should I give this to my media contacts? Should this be publicised, I have the vehicles to drive this.

    Thanks Ryan.

    Claire, the Scottish South African

  3. Brown says:

    Thanks Malcolm & Claire!! Claire, many people have had negative experiences with the kids, and one of the biggest reasons i am doing what i will be doing fo rthe 16 Days, is to try and make society see that we have to catch these kids BEFORE they get to the point of harrassing, robbing and abusing people. we have to give them back their "childhood". but there ARE in fact ways that you, and other members of the public, can make a difference. i will not address that in this comment, but i will post a blog about it very soon! watch this space!!! and YES get the word out to as many people as possible because yes, this is a publicity stunt, and the more people that see & hear it, the BETTER!! thanks!!!

  4. Human Synergy Moon Project says:

    Whatever you need, just shout out..
    Human Synergy Project can help you a lot, mediawize and connections..

  5. 34 suspects says:

    as a former streetkid,i am with you in your efforts to raise awareness Brown,im just waiting to get there so that we can work towards achiving one goal.Tendai.Check the facebook group,The Streetkids of South africa

  6. 34 suspects says:

    we will be in the streets of Pretoria and Joburg mid week,shooting as much as we can with n international photo journalist from Austraulia and we would like to use the images as a tool to raise awareness about the plight of kids in the streets.i was there from the age of 9 to 13 and its disgusting Brown.i will write a book when im in Cape town,its judt but bad and i cant imagine anothere kid going throuigh that.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hey Dude-O this is George and Marty here! We are students of Christina Gardner and heard about the site. We totally appreciate your efforts in an attempt to stop these kids. Take Care!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hey Ryan, You are my new idol and what you are doing is very inspirational and takes lots of courage.
    Good Luck on your new perspective!

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is a student of Ms.Gardner, and she told us of the cause you are taking part in. I believe what you are doing is very courageous and something that has not been done before.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hey, Ryan! This is Ania and Marina, writing to you from Ms. Gardners advisory! As we were reading your blog, we were moved by what you wrote and what you plan to do. We support your cause, and hope that you're successful.

    Ania & Marina.

  11. […] of my most precious memories with them happened when I spent the 16 Days of Activism (in 2008) living on the streets, in protest to the fact that we allow children to live on the […]

  12. […] of my most precious memories with them happened when I spent the 16 Days of Activism (in 2008) living on the streets, in protest to the fact that we allow children to live on the […]

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