Over 2 million children are living on India’s streets – with little access to education, clean water, sanitation and nutrition. Nearly 80% of street children don’t even have a legal identity and 70% of them are engaged in child labour. With no birth certificate and no passport, they remain outside the margins. We see them around us, yet they remain invisible and unheard. Although they are vulnerable, they are also resourceful and resilient – but despite this, they are still tragically denied the opportunities they need to realise their full potential.

In response, Save the Children India had initiated #TheInvisibles campaign to amplify the agenda of street children and secure a legal identity for them, allowing them to access their rights. However, in supporting a unique initiative- the Street Child Cricket World Cup, Save the Children India mobilised a wide range of stakeholders to take up the agenda of street children, who face the double jeopardy of being marginalised and being invisible. It was a great opportunity to bring together businesses, political leaders, media, public figures, influencers and the wider public, all in support for street children!

What did the Street Child Cricket World Cup (SCCWC) involve?

The Street Child Cricket World Cup initiative was started by Street Child United (SCU), a UK based organisation with a legacy of organising street child tournaments around major sporting festivals, like the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the Olympics in Brazil, the FIFA World Cup Russia and more. The initiative uses the power of sport to bring street children together in a safe space- where they can be seen and have their voices can be heard. Before the tournament, a UN- styled Congress is held, providing the children with the chance to advocate and voice their concerns on various agenda topics in front of political leaders and influencers. The Street Child Cricket World Cup, itself, uses the power of cricket to raise awareness and tackle the widespread stigma faced by street children. It aims to inspire countries, governments and communities to better protect, respect and support street-children worldwide.

Ahead of the ICC World Cup, Street children from across the Commonwealth countries came together in the UK for their own international cricket tournament.On a truly global platform for street children, 10 gender equal national teams from 9 countries played a historic tournament at Lord’s - the Mecca of Cricket.

Save the Children India’s role in the SCCWC

Save the Children India and HOPE Foundation brought together ‘Team India North’, which comprised of street children who came from the dock area in urban Kolkata and those living in shelter homes, either away or abandoned by their families.

We were delighted that the HOPE Foundation shared our passion for improving the lives of children, by providing them with a legal identity, access to education, healthcare, opportunities and platforms to share their voice- as demonstrated in this event!

After the statement of interest had been finalised, it took about a year to get started. We selected children from our programme, initiated their training and by the end of the year, we had a team all set and ready to take on Lord’s and raise their voice on a global platform on behalf of street children in their country.  

Save the Children India rallied the support of many influencers. Some celebrities and sports personalities who joined included- Sourav Ganguly, former Captain of Team India, Mithali Raj, Captain of the India Cricket Team, Dia Mirza, an artist Ambassador for Save the Children and many more. We also had support from the corporate organisation, PTC Financial Services. Since the event aligned so well with our campaign, this was a fitting opportunity to further amplify the agenda of street children!

 

Save the Children - supported street children play as Team India (North)

Mohammad Waris, one of the 8 members of Team India North was a school dropout. He has already become a master cutter. With deft hands, he cuts cloth bands to make summer caps. In his work, speed is of essence. The number of caps he binds is proportionate to the amount of money he earns. He has been working for seven years to support his family with a meagre weekly income of Rs 300 (equivalent to £3.43). This work had put a sharp end to his childhood long before it had even began.

But now, Waris finally has a chance to live out what many children can only dream of— to play at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. He is now back in school with our support. He tells us- “I have to represent my country and it is important that I learn to read and write.

Waris’ is not alone in his story, but many others including Tarak and Jabir were also forced to work, to earn money, when instead they should be in school, having fun and playing. The whole team included: Waris, Anjali Paswan, Lusi Sharma (Vice Captain), Ayushman Choudhary, Millie Singh, Soni Khatoon, Tarak Sardar (Captain) and Jabar Ali. They couldn’t get a better opportunity than this one- the chance to not only play cricket, but to also raise awareness about the issues they face as children working on the streets. All of them are under 17 years of age and have been through a lot at such a young age. You can learn more about each of their stories here: https://support.savethechildren.in/scu/meet-the-team.html

Their journey from the streets to Lord’s wasn’t easy. Most of them didn’t even have a birth certificate, let alone a legal identity. To hold a passport and a visa in their hands was a distant dream, one that could only be achieved after several rounds of negotiations with government offices and legal representatives. But it was all well worth the effort! An effort worth what dreams are made of- an opportunity of a lifetime.

Outcomes & learnings from the SCCWC

SCCWC is More Than A Game. It’s a platform that gives street children a voice and an identity, a platform where they can stand and say #IAMSOMEBODY.

"We demand a platform for our voice. Will you listen?"

“If you respect us, you will listen to us. If you listen to us, you will protect us. Please protect us.”

These words, from one of the young leaders at General Assembly, echo long after the event had ended. They sum up the power of children’s voice, and power of a platform. The collective voice of children is so powerful that it shook decision makers and the government to act and deliver.

During their stay for over a week in London, they played matches with local schools in Cambridge and semi-finals at Parker’s Piece. They also participated in the Congress, where the team discussed the identity & protection of street children, shared their stories, offered solutions and chose their speaker to make the final presentation at the General Assembly.

The Children also visited the Houses of Parliament to address the gathering of political leaders, heads of NGOs and influencers - all hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children. Lusi, one of our child champions addressed the gathering and raised the issues of identity and gender equality. Her daily blog was showcased by Malala Fund https://assembly.malala.org/stories/lusi-roll-call

The Team met with Sir John Major, former British Prime Minister and Patron for Street Child United who addressed the team from 9 Commonwealth countries.

“It’s intolerable that in a world that’s richer than it’s ever been, we’ve got somewhere between 100 million and 150 million – we don’t know precisely – who live on the streets, who have no home, no families, little or no education, and who are largely uncared for. …, it’s an opportunity to highlight and publicise the plight of these children – and stir the consciences of people who can help them. That’s the hard-edged rationale behind it.” – Sir John Major 

Members of Team India (North) receive a hero's welcome as they come back to Kolkata after playing in the Street Child Cricket World Cup 2019

Save the Children’s future work with street children

In 2023 India will host the ICC World Cup and it will be the next batting turf for the Street Child Cricket World Cup.  Looking ahead, this will be an excellent opportunity for Save the Children India to host the SCCWCUP and create one of the largest global platforms ever for street children. A platform not only for sport, but a platform for street children’s voices to heard! It’s an opportunity to create a movement where every street child, everywhere has a legal identity and opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.

Watch more highlights from the SCCWC: 

Semi Finals at Parker’s Piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HtfqAH6rO8

Catch the Glimpse of the finals at Lord’s and General Assembly of Young leaders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFWFMdKv6zI  

A powerful film from World Bank to support Save the Children and SCCWC brought alive the significance of legal identity. This film was showcased at the Parliament, General Assembly at Lord’s and on digital platforms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUMJ2sBFad0