The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation says that parents sending their children to sell or beg on the streets place them at high risk of abuse or exploitation.
The Ministry recently took two young boys in Ba into care after they were found selling ivi to purchase school stationeries. The boys told authorities that they were sent by their parents to sell ivi . However the Hon. Minister for Children Rosy Akbar said that any parent facing financial difficulties should seek State assistance or visit the nearest social welfare office to look at the options available.
“We have gone to the extent of visiting the family of these two boys and held discussions with the parents. The school in which these boys have been attending has also been contacted to ensure that they come to the classes regularly”, Minister Akbar said.
“Following our visit to the family, the Ministry is reassessing their case and we will find the best possible ways to assist these children. The social welfare office in Ba is closely monitoring this case and the Ministry will not tolerate any form of child labor or child begging for that matter.”
Minister Akbar said Government has provided incentives including free education to alleviate the financial burden of sending children to school. She added that sending children to beg or sell food during school hours would only deprive them from sitting in a classroom.
“Families who face financial difficulties are assisted through the Ministry’s Care and Protection Program. However, we will not condone any act where a child’s safety and wellbeing is being compromised,” the Minister said.
In a separate case, authorities had to take four children from Lautoka into care after they were found begging on the streets.
“These children are now placed into residential care homes and we want to ensure that they get the best education. We are advising parents to stop using children to earn income, any child found on the streets will be taken into state care and looked after by the Ministry,” Mrs Akbar reiterated.
Meanwhile, the first 15 beggars who will be trained at the new beggars rehabilitation centre have also been identified.
“They will be placed into the training centre by the mid of next month. These are able-bodied men who will be equipped with skills training and required tools to venture into income generating projects. The Centre located at Colo-i-Suva is completed and has accommodation facilities.
“The four months training will range into areas of vocational, carpentry, agriculture and catering to name a few. The beggars will be assisted to put their new skills to use and start small businesses and become self-reliant. We are also working with non-government organisations to build a shelter for the homeless and mentally challenged beggars,” Mrs Akbar said.
Minister Akbar, who is heading the National Taskforce on Beggars is appealing for public support to reduce street begging in Fiji.
“Public support is needed for the “Don’t Give Campaign.” Some beggars earn more than $100 a day and if we stop giving them money, then only they will learn to work. Some of them have properties and houses on rent and yet they beg and it’s the mindset, “easy money.”
“The way forward is for public to stop giving them money and we hope to address this issue for once and all. We are not there to victimize them at any stage, but to help them get a decent life,” Minister Akbar said.