For about two years of her young life, Lindiwe Zulu lived on the streets where trenches were her resting place and dustbins at eateries the source of food.
Zulu who fled her home because of domestic violence, had to endure all kinds of abuse and inhuman and degrading treatment on the street from both her peers and strangers.
“I used to dread the night because that it was when a lot of unspeakable things happened to girls and younger children living on the streets,” she recounted.
The bubbly 13-year-old Zulu is now in a safe and clean environment where she is assured of three meals a day, clean clothes and regular shower times, thanks to Vision of Hope, an organization that exists to give hope to girls living on the streets of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
Vision of Hope instills self-worth in girls and young women by providing them with free educational opportunities and life skills as well as connecting them to a range of community resources.
The organization offers free programs in tailoring and designing, handcrafts making and food production to girls rescued from the streets. It also supports girls wishing to pursue academic studies by providing school requirements.
“We empower girls with tools to enable them to protect themselves from exploitation. The idea is to ensure that these girls realize their rights and potential,” said Chitalu Chishimba, Vision of Hope’s Executive Director.
Chishimba explained that Vision of Hope runs a full time shelter that provides a safe space and secure living environment for at-risk adolescent girls and that organization also provides free counseling services for survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence including sexual abuse.
She further revealed that 3,682 vulnerable girls and young women have benefited from Vision of Hope programs since it was established in 2009.
“We work to safely and effectively transition each girl living on the street back into her family or community with the necessary life skills to enable her live a productive life,” Chishimba said.
According to the UNICEF, Lusaka alone has an estimated number of 30,000 street children.
Main reasons advanced for the street children challenge in Zambia are child neglect, domestic violence and high levels of poverty in homes and communities where these children come from.
To counter the challenge of children living on the streets, the Zambian government has put in place skills training centers in different towns to enable vulnerable youths to be economically independent.
The said skills centers run programs like carpentry and joinery and crop production among others. Enditem