Ensuring that the children have contact with society is important to the staff at Hope Village Society, the NGO that runs the shelter in Nasr City.
“Street children are often stigmatised by society. Sometimes we take in a child, and we rehabilitate them, but society doesn’t accept them. We need to de-stigmatise street children. Society needs to change,” says Mahmoud El-Sheikh, programme director at the NGO.
Since the 2011 uprising, street children have increasingly become part of debates in the Egyptian media, where they are regularly evoked as thugs, criminals and drug addicts at the centre of episodes of political violence.
Despite this increase in visibility, the reality of the lives of street children remains mysterious; the term itself, which has pejorative connotations in Arabic, obscures more than it explains, and the children themselves are reluctant to hear the label applied to them. Experts who work with street children struggle to define exactly who the term applies to, and estimates of the number of children on the streets vary wildly from under 10,000 to several million.
Hazel Haddon / Ahram online