Children, Youth and Development
November 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of both the fall of the Berlin Wall as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC). Numerous conferences worldwide were organised to commemorate these events, yet it seems none of them explored the relationship between these two historical moments.
The UN-CRC opened for signatures on 20th November 1989 and to date a total of 194 states are party to the Convention. However, appreciating its history requires going well beyond 1989.
In 1924, the League of Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. This one-pager listed five needs of children that must be provided for (by adults). Following the dissolution of the League of Nations, discussions about a new Declaration started within the United Nations leading to the 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child. This short document contains a preamble and ten principles. One of the areas where it differs from the 1924 Declaration is with regard to work. Where the 1924 Declaration states: ‘The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation’. The 1959 document reads: ‘The child shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age; he shall in no case be caused or permitted to engage in any occupation or employment which would prejudice his health or education, or interfere with his physical, mental or moral development’.
In 1978, it was Poland that proposed the idea of a Convention on the Rights of the Child; a document that unlike a Declaration would be legally binding. What followed was a decade of drafting and negotiation before the Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 1989. Importantly, the drafting thus took place in time in which East-West relations were very different from when the Convention entered into force.
In her book The International Law on the Rights of the Child, Geraldine van Bueren is wary of reducing the understanding of the coming into being of the UNCRC to Cold War geopolitics (p13). Whilst this is no doubt correct, she does not elaborate on the role that Cold War geopolitics might nonetheless have played. Since children’s right to participate in matters affecting them did not appear in any of the Declarations yet features prominently in the UNCRC it raises interesting questions of how the emergence of this participation right might be understood in this geopolitical context. It is further worth noting that the 5 states, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Laos and Cuba, that have remained socialist to date were among the first to ratify the Convention. Vietnam ratified the UNCRC in February 1990 (the second country, globally, to do so after Ghana) and China closed the rank in March 1992.
Many of the conferences that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the UNCRC took a stock-taking approach (what has it achieved?) whilst also looking into the future (how can it be employed better?). These are certainly valid questions to which an exploration of its historical relation with the Cold War would have yielded no response. However, with quite some of the people involved in the drafting of the UNCRC still alive perhaps there is also to say for an enquiry into its political history.
posted by Roy Huijsmans
In October 2014 the International Institute of Social Studies hosted an expert meeting on ‘comprehensive sexuality education’. The event was organised by Share-Net International, Share-Net Netherlands, Institute of Social Studies (ISS/EUR), IS Academie (UvA), Rutgers WPF and dance4life. The meeting was attended by over 70 participants. The aim of the expert meeting was to provide an overview on evidence and research gaps, share experiences with designing and implementing CSE, and to highlight CSE from young people’s perspective.This is the first in a series of posts by guest contributor Sara Vida Coumans looking back at this event.
Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) aims to assist all human beings, thus including young people, in understanding and enjoying a holistic view on sexual and reproductive health and rights to be able to make informed decisions regarding their own life as well as regarding their environment and act upon them in all stages of their lives in dignity, equality, security and with respect.
CSE is most often targeted at young people. This is evident from CSE related targets set by various governments which typically include:
- Eliminating all new HIV infections amongst adolescents and young people aged 10-24;
- Increase to 95% the number of adolescents and young people aged 10-24, who demonstrate comprehensive HIV prevention knowledge levels;
- Reduce early and unintended pregnancies among young people by 75%;
- Eliminate gender-based violence;
- Eliminate child marriage;
- Increase the number of all schools and teacher trainings institutions that provides CSE to 75%.
UNESCO is one of the agencies that has embraced the CSE discourse. A short youtube clip entitled ‘Young People Today’ sheds some interesting light on how UNESCO sees youth in relation to CSE. Despite the title of the clip, the narrative is an illustrative example of how young people are framed with their citizenship and rights in the future and not in the present, a discourse in which ‘they are the future of tomorrow’. Furthermore, within this discourse one can see how young people’s sexuality is approached in the present from a risk based approach, without talking about pleasure and sexual rights of adolescents and young people. One of the aims of the expert meeting was to unpack such an approach to youth and sexuality and to discuss alternative ways of understanding sexuality in relation to young people’s lives.
guest contribution by Sara Vida Coumans (Member, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights)
The University of Bath offers some interesting PhD scholarships. One is advertised as ‘PhD in understanding childhood – growing up in hard times‘, which is a qualitative longitudinal research project on low-income childhoods in England. It focuses on the lives and experiences of 60 children in 6 school settings over 3-5 years.
The second Bath scholarship is advertised as ‘Mobile money and children’s wellbeing in Africa‘, which seeks to cut across research on micro finance/mobile money and children’s wellbeing, whilst also engaging with the literature on the anthropology of mobile telephony. The research seeks to investigate how mobile money is entering into young people’s lives, by examining its effect on young people’s livelihood opportunities, as well as relational and subjective assessments of what young people are able to do and be.
Then there are Erasmus Mundus funded MA scholarships for a ‘European Master in Social Work with Families and Children‘. This is a two year master programme of 120 ECTS requiring students to spend a semester each in Lisbon, Stavanger and Gothenburg.
Call for Papers – EuroSEAS conference, Vienna, 11-14 August, 2015
Panel title: What Role for Southeast Asia in the Field of Youth Studies?
Whilst still predominated by research in the Global North, the field of youth studies is rapidly diversifying in geographical terms. One reason for this is the demographic presence of youth in the Global South due to a ‘youth bulge’ or demographic shift towards youth. Throughout the Global South, young people have taken on central and complex roles as political actors and media activists, as seen in their role in the Arab Spring and Occupy movement. In addition, the phenomenon of educated youth unemployment calls into question the links between education, employment and economic growth and challenges prominent theories about social reproduction and mobility. Finally, the apparent disinterest among youth in farming and rural futures raises questions about the place of the rural in the lives and aspirations for modernity among young Southeast Asians.
Southeast Asian research with/on youth stands out for its relative absence in any of these debates, despite it being a highly youthful region. Indeed, Southeast Asia is part of the Asia-Pacific region that is home to 60 per cent of the world’s youth population (aged 16-25). This panel invites contributions that address this apparent paradox and ultimately contribute to the question of what Southeast Asian research has to contribute to the wider and quickly evolving field of youth studies. Given the rapid socio-economic developments characterising much of Southeast Asia and the relative absence of large-scale youth protests the panel seeks to explore the unique contribution of Southeast Asian research on/with youth in a focus on everyday struggles of being young and growing up (instead of a focus on ‘spectacular youth’), rapidly changing inter-generational relations that reconfigure the social position of young people, social mobility through education and migration, and questions about gendered futures and desires for modernity among youth.
Those wishing to contribute a paper to the panel are invited to submit an abstract of 350 words maximum and a summarised CV (1 page maximum) by Feb 15th, 2015 to the convenors. Successful applicants will be notified in time for the early bird registration of the conference (which closes on Feb 28th). Full papers are due on July 1st, 2015. For further details on the 8th EuroSEAS Conference: http://www.euroseas.org/content/conference
The Centre for Children’s Rights Studies at the University of Geneva advertises two funded PhD positions part of a Swiss National Science Foundation sponsored interdisciplinary research project on child labour and working children’s rights.
The first vacancy concerns a study of the opinions of working children and their organizations, and implies field work with working children in Senegal and in other West African countries.
The second vacancy concerns a study of the discourses around claims made by working children to recognize their right to work in dignity, and involves a detailed analysis of policy and legal documents on child labour.
Overall, the project’s major focus is described as concerned with ‘how opinions of working children on their rights circulate in the space between local and international understandings of children’s rights’.
The research project is described as follows:
With the resurgence of targeted marketing of ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ toys there has been concern that boys and girls are being channelled into restrictive gender specific play. The Curriculum for Excellence focuses much attention on the importance of learning through play and the Caledonian Club at GCU prioritises early intervention as a means for raising children’s own expectations. This PhD seeks to examine whether there are any links between children’s play, the gendered marketing of toys and their own expectations for the future. The scope of the PhD would be developed by the successful candidate and the supervisory team but we anticipate some of the following areas may be incorporated:
posted by Roy Huijsmans
Mass-schooling has long been recognised as an important technique of nation-building. Indeed, Marie Lall notes in her introduction to Education as a Political Tool in Asia that ‘governments have long used education and the school curriculum amongst other vehicles for disseminating political ideology with a view to transforming societies and subjecting them to more effective state control’ (p. 1).
General Prayuth Chan-o-cha adds another chapter to this theme now that his ‘12 core values of the Thai people‘ have been included into textbooks by the Thai Ministry of Education. General Prayuth is the former commander in chief of the Royal Thai Army who launched a successful military coup against the Thai government in May 2014, despite his earlier claim of neutrality of the army in the Thai conflict (see HERE), and has meanwhile been appointed as the new prime-minister of Thailand.
The Chiangrai Times refers to the chief of the Thai Office of the Basic Education Commision who explains that ‘students at all levels will be required to recite the ’12 core values of the Thai people’ either as part of their daily flag-raising ceremony or in class’. It also lists the ’12 core values’:
1. Upholding the nation, the religions and the Monarchy, which is the key institution
2. Being honest, sacrificial and patient with positive attitude for the common good of the public
3. Being grateful to the parents, guardians and teachers
4. Seeking knowledge and education directly and indirectly
5. Treasuring the precious Thai tradition
6. Maintaining moral, integrity, well-wishes upon others as well as being generous and sharing
7. Understanding, learning the true essence of democratic ideals with His Majesty the King as the Head of State
8. Maintaining discipline, respectful of laws and the elderly and seniority
9. Being conscious and mindful of action in line with His Majesty’s the King’s statements
10. Practicing the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy of His Majesty the King. Saving money for time of need. Being moderate with surplus used for sharing or expansion of business while having good immunity
11. Maintaining both physical and mental health and unyielding to the dark force or desires, having sense of shame over guilt and sins in accordance with the religious principles
12. Putting the public and national interest before personal interest.
posted by Roy Huijsmans
One of the tenets of the so-called new sociology of childhood was the appreciation of children as social actors. Coupled with the ‘participation’ rights enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child this has contributed to a real shift in research on children. Children may for long have been objects of research, this is no long the case. There is now a wealth of material in which children, as subjects, are the central focus of research.
At times however, this child-centred research has become child-only research thereby losing sight of important other actors shaping children’s lives. Children’s domestic work is the case in point. Despite a growing body of research on children as domestic workers we know relatively little about the adults employing them (but note Raya Muttarak’s work in Thailand).
In a recent article in the journal Children’s Geographies Natascha Klocker contributes an important corrective to this picture. Her piece is entitled ‘Struggling with child domestic work: what can a postcolonial perspective offer?‘ By employing a postcolonial perspective, Klocker seeks to ‘expose the hegemony of Minority World knowledge systems and their neocolonial imposition on Majority World lives, issues and spaces’ (p465). In relation to the issue of child domestic work this means for Klocker 1) giving voice to those that have been silenced by Minority World knowledge systems. This includes child domestic workers themselves, but also their employers. 2) Critiquing the suggestion that Majority World children need rescuing from their adult compatriots as much NGO discourse implies. 3) Finding scope to go ‘beyond discourses of exploitation formulated around western economic theories and notions of appropriate employment arrangements, to the potential for ethics of care and more-than-economic relationships in children’s working lives’ (p466), 4) emphasising the West’s complicity in the conditions experienced by many in the Majority World.
In the pages that follow Klocker gives a rich overview of how employers of child domestic workers look at the arrangement and their experiences with and perceptions of child domestic workers. She does so on the basis of interview work with a total of 75 employers of child domestic workers in Tanzania. Importantly, the interviews were conducted by a team of Tanzanian researchers, including some former child domestic workers, in order to avoid the likely bias in responses generated by the presence of a foreign researcher.
The qualitative material works to nuance stereotypical images of employers of child domestic workers. Certainly, some are abusive and exploit their young workers, yet this does not appear to be a universal picture. Such research, Klocker points out, contributes to further decolonising our understanding of children’s domestic employment. Moreover, it may also be of strategic relevance. Many employers agreed that more must be done to improve the living and working conditions of child domestic workers – perhaps working with employers offers more scope for realising this aim than working against them.
posted by Roy Huijsmans
Marking its 150th anniversary, Oxford Brookes University offers a number of full-time PhD studentships.
This includes a PhD position in a project entitled ‘Urban Futures: Aspiration, inequality and transitions to adulthood among young people in London and New York City’. The anticipated project is described as follows: ‘The research will involve a year of long-term ethnographic research with a cohort of individuals making the transition from schooling to early adulthood, coupled with an intensive period of observation and interviews with students and school leavers in London (with a smaller comparative study in New York City, partly funded by the studentship provided by Oxford Brookes).’
Unfortunately, only UK and EU national applicants are eligible. For further details go HERE.
ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.