K4L supports girls living on the street
In recent months the number of young girls living on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho's capital city, has become an enormous problem. Kick4Life has been working with street kids for years through the Kick4Life Academy, but until recently this has been exclusively boys. We are now however working daily with sixteen girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who come to the centre for food, treatment and life-skills training.
HIV prevalence and drug use
Many of the girls are HIV positive and are not on treatment. Thanks to our partnership with the Vodafone Foundation & Vodacom we have so far been able to provide voluntary counselling and testing to 9 girls living on the street. 6 of them have tested positive and have been referred to ongoing treatment. Because they do not have homes and guardians Kick4Life mentors and counsellors meet daily with the girls to ensure they take their medications, eat meals, and make it to scheduled appointments for care.
Drug use in this group is also high. As a result we have partnered with Blue Cross to educate the girls on the risks of using drugs. One girl has been with Blue Cross in Rehabilitation for the last three months. When she completes this care we will monitor and help her reintegrate back into her family.
What Can be Done?
On the street the girls are exposed to violence, abuse, pregnancy, drug abuse and HIV infection. Our aim is to provide a safe place for them to come everyday and to support them intensively and holistically towards integration back into society.
The girls will be supported through our established an effective model for working with the most vulnerable young people in Lesotho. Children undergo an in-depth Child Status Index assessment, which shows their urgent needs. A six-month care plan is then put together for each child and mentors meet with them regularly to assess and support their needs. This includes managing referrals to a range of specialist organisations and agencies that offer services in relevant areas of need including health, education, shelter, nutrition, protection and psychosocial.
Kick4Life has also entered talks with a local vocational school that is willing to take the girls into classes to teach them skills that will help them become financially independent, build confidence and develop self-esteem. This will require funding but could be a huge step in helping the girls move forward, and we will continue working with them on the wider social and health aspects of their lives.
The ultimate goals are to integrate these children back into family homes and schools where possible, and eventually support them towards sustainable livelihoods. These are long term ambitions but for now the girls know that Kick4Life offers a safe place to come for help. We can help them get on treatment, stay on treatment and hopefully give them a chance to make a better life.
We are also working hard with a number of local partner organisations to understand how this new problem has emerged and to identify the key drivers that have resulted in girls living on the streets of Maseru.