An article titled “Sucked into vortex of revolution” (The Star, 16/02/2011 p.15) gave Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) a reason to be GLAD. The article highlighted how children’s rights have been violated in Egypt during the country’s recent social upheaval.
It told the story of the struggles of approximately 50 000 street children in Cairo, Egypt’s capital, and interviewed three homeless boys who spoke about their experiences during the recent protests, and the challenges they posed for them.
The article made it clear that the environment these street children found themselves in was very confusing. Some of the children enjoyed going to Tahrir square [the hub where most of the protests took place] as anti-government protesters gave them food. However many others were reportedly coerced by the police into joining pro-government protests. “Children…revealed how Mubarak-supporters deliberately brought children to the outskirts of Tahrir Square to throw stones at the pro-democracy supporters.”
Children were also among the victims of the violence, with the article giving accounts of two children who had been shot. The article described how the children still felt vulnerable and “avoided questions about police behavior: they were obviously still afraid.”
It also brought to light the sexual abuse faced by young girls in the city. Hostel and charity workers reportedly spoke of how policemen were forcing female street children to sleep with them; and how girls as young as five were being molested by the policemen.
MMA commends The Star on this article as it was both informative and in depth. It gave a voice to the children, without making them more vulnerable or exposed. It is also one of the few articles that focused on the impact the protests had on the children in Egypt.
Children’s rights as espoused in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child need to exist, not only on paper but in practice. The article by The Star respected the rights of the children it reported on, while making it clear that sometimes society and governments do not.