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UNICEF and Indian Government figures suggest that between 11 and 18 million children work for low wages on India’s streets.  None of us will know the precise numbers, but we cannot deny that it is a huge percentage of children.

In an attempt to make their voices heard among decision-makers, government, and the public, the first Street Child Soccer World Cup was organized in South Africa earlier this month. It brought together children from nine countries: Brazil, India, Nicaragua, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, the UK, Ukraine, and Vietnam.

One of the participating kids Wanda Msani, from South Africa, pretty much sums up the feelings of these kids.

“When people walk past us, they look at us like we are dogs. They look down on us like we are not even people, just because we eat from bins,” he says, his eyes burning with anger.”They will see that we can be something.” For Wanda and his team-mates, playing football offers an escape from their hellish lives of constant hunger, an absence of love, the threat of sexual abuse and in which sniffing glue is often the only comfort.

 The Street Child World Cup hopes to strengthen, equip and enable a global network of partners to work towards a world where the rights of all children to a full, healthy and dignified life, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are implemented so that children who live and work on the streets benefit on a global scale.  Through a process led by the children themselves, the Street Child World Cup intends to formulate a global Street Child Manifesto, which will form the basis of an international campaign calling for street children’s rights to be recognized and upheld.

I wonder for how long can politicians, and elected officials, ignore the massive challenges of poverty that India faces today? All of the street children participating in this world cup are winners in their own right. Their determination and resilience is commendable.

I hope they succeed in getting off the streets and living a dignified life like the rest of us, because they have a right to. For the technical record, India won the first world cup soccer for street children!

To find out more, you can visit http://streetchildworldcup.org/

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