You see them approach cars and offer to sell perfume sprays, pack of face towels, boxes of tissues and fun toys for kids. As young as six years old, these street children reflect the frustrations of not being able to sell their products at the end of the night; while remaining potential victims to road accidents and ensnared to commit aggravated crimes. The Times spoke to these children and, in return for purchasing their items, learned about their frustrations and simple wishes in life.
Musaad, who is ten years old, lives with his two brothers and four sisters in Andalus. His father died of cancer few years back and left them in the care of their mother. He stopped going to school last year, not because, the family could not afford to send him to school, but because they had no interest in academics. Musaad spends his time in the streets of Andalus, hangs out at friends’ houses and hardly eats in a day; not unless his friends would treat him to a sandwich or a meal.
Musaad lamented that his mother is often out of the house and stays with her aunt leaving them hungry and unattended. Musaad’s friends introduced him to man called Hamad, who distributes pirated CDs to sell in the Friday market, Musaad earns 250 fils for every 3 CDs he can sell and in between he steals from other shops in the same place.
Musaad sells whatever he steals outside the grounds of Friday market in order to avoid getting caught by the local authorities. Clad in dirty disdasha and worn out slippers, Musaad makes the Friday market his personal playground and moneyearning place. Similarly, Hamoud is twelve years old, and has never attended school; his mother and father have been divorced for the past five years.
Hamoud lives with his brother who is married and out of job. At an early age, Hamoud started working with his brother for a 100-fils shop in Rigga, he used to clean the shop before it opened and earned small amount of KD 75 in a month. This was sufficient for him to buy what he wanted and somehow, feed himself for a month. Their mother left him and his two brothers and sister to the custody of their father, who got re-married. For sometime Hamoud and his sister used to receive monthly financial support from their father but eventually, due to the influence of his stepmother, they were forced to live on their own and support themselves.
The monthly financial assistance stopped and their father refused to see them. Hamoud no longer works for the 100-fils shop because he was accused of stealing things from the shop. Hamoud sighed that he did not steal anything but was wrongly accused by the owner of the shop.
Hamoud and his brother now peddle perfume sprays in Messilah and Salmiyah daily to earn small amount to support them. “At times I envy my friends for having a family to live with; I hope I still have my mother and father to provide support. Everyday is difficult for us, we have a six year old brother who often gets sick, I want to buy many things but I don’t have the money, people think that I beg in the street, they offer money but I give them perfume spray in exchange.
I never take money from people,” said Hamoud. Six years old Fadhel could be the youngest peddler one can see along the streets of Salmiyah. Fadhel used to accompany his brother in Souk Salmiyah to sell pirated CDs and videotapes and just like Musaad; they earn 250 fils for every 3 CDs they sell.
To add to the income, they would sell perfume sprays. Fadhel wishes to become a doctor someday and own his own play station. Fadhel hardly talked during his interview, but one can notice the hardships this kid is going though. When asked if he is not afraid of getting into accidents because of the rushing cars, Fahdel replied with a smile.
Fadhel, Musaad, and Hamoud are just among the increasing number of street children with no proper legal status in Kuwait. The heat of the sun, hunger, danger of being hit by cars, belittled, and the disappointment of not able to sell and earn at least a one dinar in a day, are just some of anguishes these kids go through every day.
“Blaming the parents for such irresponsible acts would not be enough; local authorities should somehow apprehend these parents for not meeting their duties,” said mother of five children Mariam Al- Khaldi.
“I believe because the parents marry at early age, education on parenthood is insufficient and traditional pre-arranged marriages are prevalent in the society. Statistics show that divorce cases have increased this year and would most likely increase the following year. Infidelity, domestic violence and lack of financial support are the common reasons why divorces happen in the country and in between such battle are the children who suffer.
Social welfare department, humane organizations and societies and local authorities should implement a revised set of laws to protect the rights of these children,” commented a psychotherapist. The two-hour interview concluded with The Times offering to take them home and, as promised, purchased the items they peddled. They got off from the car, bade goodbye and disappeared into the night.
What remained was stories of survival learned from these children. For every item bought from these children and given out to friends will be a reminiscing story about them that must be told and questions asked as to why there were poor children in such a rich country?