All across Latin America, the number of homeless girls is growing. In the 1980s, most observers spoke only of street boys, but prostitution, poverty, and sexual tourism have forced poor girls onto the street, as have drugs, decomposing families, and abuse. In some cities, researchers suggest that as many as 30-40 percent of street children are girls, up from less than 10 percent a decade ago.
Unfortunately, the majority of programs that work with street children were designed for boys. They use football as a way to meet the children; lessons on sexually transmitted diseases come from a male perspective; vocational training focusses on traditionally male professions like carpetry, welding, and auto mechanics. Though almost all organizations have attempted to address this problem, they often find themselves wandering in the dark.
In Recife, Brasil, Casa de Passagem has worked with street and at-risk girls for the last decade and a half. Its efforts have forced the Brasilian government and civil society to think about gender when providing services for street children; more significantly, it has created a powerful new model for working with girls.
Emma Salter is a British graduate student whose research focusses on Gender and Development. From May to September of 2003, she worked with the Casa de Passagem to discover and publicize the best practices in work with street girls. By careful interviews with girls, staff, and local academics, Miss Salter has compiled a detailed set of recommendations for other organizations that wish to serve street girls better.
The results of the Project for Street Girls are now available. Here, you can download
- The Street Girls Curriculum Presentation (This is a 2.9 MB multimedia presentation. Available in Windows or Macintosh versions.
- The text of Ms. Salter's thesis (in English)