THE BLOG

Only By Working Together Can We Make Sure the Voices of Street Children Are Heard

11/04/2014 12:34 BST | Updated 11/06/2014 10:59 BST

This weekend many of us will marvel at the achievements of those taking part in the London marathon. On the surface it's an outstanding individual feat. But as a keen runner I know that behind every marathoner there will have been friends, family, physiotherapists and volunteers who have helped them to get across the finishing line. We all know that achieving your goals is much easier if you are not doing it alone.

As an insurance company, of course, this collaborative approach is fundamental to what we do. Businesses like Aviva were created to bring people together to protect themselves against risks whether they were fires, floods or even highwaymen, freeing them from the fear of uncertainty. So it should be no surprise that the same collective approach is at the heart of our drive to help improve the lives of street children around the world - a group who face great uncertainty on a daily basis.

There are many millions of children living or working on the streets. They are found in every continent and every country. But whether they live in Mumbai, Manchester or Mexico City, they can face many of the same daily risks and lack of opportunities often going unseen and unheard.

We are determined, as a global company, to play our part. It is why we've been running the global Street to School programme for nearly five years, helping more than 800,000 street-connected children in 17 countries to get off the street and into education. Education is insurance for a brighter future, a positive legacy that we can create in our communities.

But it's not just about financial support. It's about working with other people and other organisations to pool our experience and expertise, so we can make a real, practical difference. Whether it is non-Governmental organisations, community groups, business and of course governments we all have a role in ensuring our response is systemic and sustainable.

Let me give you an example from Indonesia, one of the world's fastest growing economies but also a country where for millions of people there are still significant barriers to accessing opportunities to improve their lives. Although it may seem strange, one of the barriers is the failure to register births. Without registration, children can find it difficult to get an identity card, and therefore a place at school, or access to health care. Nor can the government adequately budget and plan for people it doesn't know exist.

Yet nearly half of all children under five still do not have birth certificates. In the slums around Jakarta, a survey found two out of three parents don't even bother to try because of the cost and complexity.

So together with global children's charity Plan UK and the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs we launched a joint project to help families and children access registration and work to make the process easier and cheaper. It was hard work but we were delighted when earlier this year the Indonesian Government agreed to change the law, scrapping fees and also removing the requirement that the certificate had to be issued where the birth took place.

It might seem a small change but, over time, it will make a big difference to millions of children. It is a good example of what business, the third sector and governments can achieve together. And it is a success we are working hard to replicate elsewhere.

In India, we have worked with Save the Children, and local partners, to encourage communities to declare themselves Child Labour Free Zones. In Nehru Place, a busy commercial centre in Delhi, this has resulted in over 200 local businesses pledging their support with other areas in Delhi following suit. We are also supporting Save the Children's learning centres helping young children into school for the first time and supporting older children to develop new skills through tailored, vocational training courses.

But the more people we can get involved, the more voices we can get speaking up for street children, the more we can get done. And that's why the focus provided by the International Day for Street Children is so important.

The Day itself may only be in its fourth year but, thanks to the Consortium for Street Children and its network members, it is already celebrated annually on April 12 in over 130 countries. It's a great start but we now want to raise the volume by persuading the United Nations to recognise the Day officially.

It might seem that such recognition is little more than a token gesture but that's absolutely not the case. The evidence from other global challenges shows that the involvement of the UN and the annual profile of the day lead to renewed efforts at both global and national level. We are confident it will make it much more difficult for governments to ignore the voices and potential of children on our streets.

You can help by adding your name to the petition here at http://www.streetchildrenday.org or sharing their voices using #TweetForTheStreet. By building the widest possible alliance and recruiting the UN to the cause, we can help street children to be heard and encourage governments to provide the support and opportunities they need to thrive.