An investigation into the nature and extent of economic exploitation of street children in Zimbabwe: A case study of Harare Central Business District
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The exploitation of street is among the social problems in Zimbabwe. This study had five objectives, these were: to determine the basic characteristics of working street children in Harare Central Business District (CBD), to identify types of economic exploitation experienced by street children in Harare Central Business District (CBD), to identify sources of economic exploitation of street children in Harare CBD, to establish the challenges faced by children working on the streets of Harare CBD and to identify perceptions of working street children in Harare CBD. In order to understand the phenomenon of street children and the subsequent economic exploitation the study relied on the social capital theory propounded by Coleman (1988) and Maslow‘s Hierarchy of needs. The study used observation and interviews as tools for data collection on the lives and working experiences of street children in Harare. The information was gathered from a sample of 30 street children who were living and working on the streets. These were children of the street and children on the street. Additional information was sought from five (5) key informants. Two (2) of whom were staff members of two Non-Governmental Organisations dealing with street children in Harare and three (3) street adults who had lived and worked on the streets of Harare for more than 10 years. The study also revealed that the community at large was not made accountable for the economic exploitation of street children. This was due to laxity on the part of authorities to take action and the general attitude of the public regarding street children as a nuisance. On the other hand, the study found that street children faced several challenges while working on the streets of Harare for their survival. Among the challenges faced by the street children were abuse and harassment from their employers, sexual exploitation, underpayment, being forced to work in hazardous environments and engagement in criminal activities. The study also established street children‘s perceptions and future aspirations. The study concluded that children living and working on the street face a number of challenges which included engaging in exploitative activities in order to survive, and experience emotional and physical abuse by members of the community. The study came up with the recommendations as to enhance the government and NGOs‘ efforts towards the alleviation of the problems faced by working street children and the street children phenomenon. Government should assist children while on the street by supporting NGOs and Social services department in protecting street children. Members of the corporate sector urged to contribute to the alleviation of problems facing street children. The community should discourage the children‘s flow to the street by denying their services and stop the attitude of offering them petty things. Street children should attend all programmes and training offered by government and Non-Governmental Organisations in order to be assured that their ideas are involved in decision-making.