A dirt-covered 6-year-old approaches you. Her clothes are tattered and torn, her hair is a mess and she looks – well, like she’s homeless. What do you do?
Now that same little girl comes back up to you. She’s fresh-faced, has an adorably sweet outfit on and is impeccably groomed. Do you treat her the same way as the little homeless-looking girl?
That’s the question behind the #FightUnfair campaign video on Now This (as part of a UNICEF social experiment). With more than 41 million Facebook views so far, this clip tells the story of childhood homelessness (and how these children are treated) through the lens of reality.
The video features a 6-year-old girl, dressed to look homeless. She’s sent into public places to see what happens. Even though she clearly looks lost and abandoned, no one stops to help. Not only don’t any of the adults attempt to help her, but they actually ignore and move away from her.
When she enters a café, the diners largely look away. One woman goes as far as moving her bag away from the dirt-covered little girl. A man says, “Go away. I don’t want to see you here anymore!”
Even though the little girl isn’t homeless in real life (she’s a child actress who is playing a part), the strangers words were hurtful enough to stop the experiment. After being told to “Go away,” the 6-year-old ran out of the restaurant in tears. Of the harsh treatment, she said, “This made me sad.”
But, what happened when the 6-year-old washed her face, had her hair brushed and dressed nicely? No one ignored her. Standing on the street by herself (mind you, she was also by herself when she was dressed as a homeless child), adults stopped to give her attention. Bending down to speak to her, showing her care and clearly demonstrating worry about her situation, passers-by seemed to want to help the well-dressed girl.
Homelessness is a growing issue, especially when it comes to children. Roughly 150 million children live on the streets, according to the UN. This includes those who fled from abusive homes, children of homeless parents and families who are left with nothing because of political conflict or natural disaster. Some children live on the streets 24-7, under bridges, in railway or subway stations or anywhere that they can find a space.
These are the children who need our help the most. They’re scared, they’re often abandoned and they don’t have bright futures. Sadly, as the video points out, these are also the same children who are largely ignored by most of society.
One Facebook user puts it in a way that we should all understand, “I’m at a loss for words. It should not matter how an abandoned child/children are dressed to get them the help they need. You never know when or if you could be in their position.”