Protect children on the move

Children and Adolescents Engaged in Street Work in The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Mobilities, Vulnerabilities, Resiliences

Research Report

Publishers Mario Project
Author Zana Vathi
Zones Albania, Kosovo, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Date of publication 2015
Total pages 51
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The findings on the movements of these groups show that children and caretakers were
involved in transnational, internal and urban mobilities within the city (primarily Skopje).
Most of these movements were organized in the form of family mobilities for the purpose
of street work; however, these groups performed other forms of cross-border, in-country
and urban mobilities for the purpose of family visits, medical treatment and trading.

Instances of exploitation alongside these movements were picked up from the narratives
of children, caretakers and more explicitly, from the narratives of key community
members and stakeholders. These instances referred to trafficking for the purpose of
begging and possibly sexual exploitation. However, most of the research findings relate
to the experience of children and caretakers in terms of street work and the generation
of income as part of their survival strategies.

In the majority of the cases, street work was a family project, despite the unequal power
relations between parents/caretakers and children, and the instances of exploitations
of children for the purpose of street work. To a large extent, street work activities
were headed by the parents – mothers in a number of cases, since many families were
headed by adult women who did not have a partner. Both caretakers and children were
mostly doing ‘typical’ street work such as begging, windscreen cleaning and scavenging.
Street work was for the purpose of securing the basic family needs; most of children
and caretakers said that they were unable to save anything from their earnings. Both
children and caretakers showed great willingness to take up any other type of work that
they could be offered, such as different kinds of physical work, domestic and commercial
cleaning, or work in manufacturing companies. However, despite high aspirations for
occupational mobility, the cases of street workers doing other kinds of work were very
limited and such employment did not have consistent patterns.

Indeed, in terms of welfare and wellbeing, a sense of deprivation and helplessness
characterised the narratives of the children and caretakers interviewed for this research.
Many of them lived in unsuitable accommodation and had various health issues. Children
and caretakers live in conditions of precarity of different forms. A number of children and
adolescents reported serious issues with domestic abuse, which, in turn, gave rise to high
dissatisfaction and mental health problems.

Instances of exploitation of children by their parents for the purpose of street work
– either through verbal or physical abuse or through the imposition of narcotic substances
on the children – were also reported. This sense of domestic precarity was coupled with
issues that children and caretakers experienced on the street. These issues varied from
feared confrontation with institutions to issues with gangs and bands and the members
of the general public. In these conditions, social support and socialisation is limited due
to a general lack of resources and family problems, such as separation of partners and
criminal offences committed by male adult members of the families.

Among children and caretakers a different sense and priority of needs was reported.
In general, both groups expressed a variety of needs, depending on the extent of poverty
and deprivation they were experiencing. However, caretakers were more focused on
structural needs such as education and housing, whereas children were more focused
on the day-to-day needs they or their family and close friends had. Despite various
needs expressed, a good number of caretakers and children said that they have never
interacted with, or received help or assistance from state institutions or non-governmental
organizations. Those who had interacted with institutions had approached various ones,
although a tense relationship was reported between the caretakers and children and
state institutions due to sanctions put in place towards street workers and their families.
Moreover, it appears that a well-developed framework on child protection is in place;
however, there is a split between organizations and institutions that focus on local children
and migrant children – both those who migrate internally within FYROM and those who
have migrated from other countries. In general, this split reflects the understanding of
policy-makers and service providers of the concept of ‘children on the move’ and that of

The report ends with a section on policy recommendations which put the emphasis on
the work needed at a national level that should focus on preventing marginalisation by
analysing the source of vulnerability for certain groups and individuals. This work should
take a transformative approach to social protection systems and measures (Sabates-
Wheeler and Waite 2003). Specific measures could focus on relieving the effects of longstanding
discrimination towards certain groups that are prominent among children and
adults on the move that engage in street work, such as the RAE communities.

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