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Are you an MA student and interested in studying young people’s trajectories into farming in India? Then, check this out:

Becoming a young farmer
Funded field research opportunity

Students currently enrolled in a Masters’ program are invited to undertake empirical research on young people’s trajectories into farming in India. The global phenomenon of an ageing farming population, poor returns on farming in the current economic paradigm and an apparent lack of interest among youth in agrarian and rural futures have attracted considerable attention among policy makers and researchers. At the same time, what is overlooked is that not all young people leave farming and the countryside, and some urban youth establish themselves as first-generation urban or rural farmers. By studying young people’s trajectories into farming futures we aim to fill an important void in current work on rural youth and agrarian studies and in policies related to rural poverty reduction and employment generation. First, the research studies will go beyond documenting the various barriers that keep young people from establishing agrarian futures to examining how at least some young people manage to overcome these. Second, they will assess the working of intergenerational dynamics underpinning trajectories into farming, ranging from inheritance to the intergenerational transfer of knowledge. Third, they will shed light on generational innovation in farming practices across the globe. Gender will be treated as a key relation of social differentiation shaping all three areas of inquiry.

Up to $3000 will be provided for two graduate students to undertake field research in India. Students will have the opportunity to interact with other researchers, to present in seminars/ workshops, and to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. Funding will be distributed on a competitive basis and selection will be based on submitted research proposals. The individual funds will be released in three installments. The first, following the submission of a detailed fieldwork plan and ethics approval; the second, following the submission of a report summarizing the research findings; and the final, following the submission of a substantial output (thesis, research paper). The funds will be allocated between March 2015 and June 2016.

Interested students please send a CV and a 1000-word research proposal (consisting of research objective, questions, data collection methods, budget and time table) to Dr.Sharada Srinivasan, University of Guelph, sharada@uoguelph.ca by 20 October 2014.


Category: CYS specialisation| education| research

17 Sep 2014

downloadNext week the 2013-14 cohort of ISS students present their research paper drafts. The titles suggest an exciting week with many students working on interesting children and youth related topics.

The International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, the Netherlands offers, among other things, a 15.5 months MA programme in Development Studies. A unique feature of the ISS course offering is that it includes a number of elective courses that specifically focus on questions pertaining children and youth in contexts of development. In addition, other courses integrate a generational perspective that highlight the specific position of children and youth (as well as older people) as a critique to the adult-centric perspective that dominates much development studies.

The 2013-14 students started their programme in September 2013 and finished their course work in June 2014. The summer months were dedicated to individual research projects, often involving primary data collection in countries in the South. Next week students present a first analysis of their material in their research paper draft seminars. Each student has a full hour, which starts with a short presentation followed by feedback from peer-discussants, the supervisory team and other students.

Looking at the titles we have an interesting week ahead of us:

‘The Effects of Cross-border Violence on Uganda Children and Young adult between age 15-24 in Kasese District of Rwenzori Region: The coping strategy for survival’ by Mabel Kabatalya.

“How Are You All Doing?”: Exploring the life experiences and struggles of young generation of South Korea through “narrativization” by Min Jee Park

‘Youth School to Work Transition Experiences in Urban Ethiopia: In the lens of Unemployed and Jobless Youth Experiences’ by Beshir Butta Dale

‘Mothering Fathers?  Fathers’ New “Care” Identity and Navigating the Health Needs of their Children’ by Maurene Ann Donato Papa

‘Migrant Boys and Their Work on Streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’ by Degwale Gebeyehu Belay

‘The Social Impact of the Zimbabwean Crisis: The Case Study of Access and Quality of Education for Rural Secondary School Children’ by Samuel Kapingidza

‘Diverse experiences of teenage pregnancy in Monterrey, Mexico’ by Brenda Janett Rodriguez Cortes

‘Gender Barriers to Policy formulation and Re-entry Policy for pregnant teenagers in Ghana: Examining the silence discourses ‘ by  Yenutien Kombian

‘Responsibility of the State and parents: Child maintenance claims administered in the parallel Kadhi Court system in Zanzibar’ by Sheikha Mohamed Ramia.

‘The Difficulties of Ending FGM: Case of Afar Pastoralist Communities in Ethiopia’ by Masresha Yazew Andarge

‘Societal stigmatization and prejudice: A challenge to the survival of street children in Kampala city of Uganda’, by Annet Najjuma.

‘Eternal Outsiders? Social Exclusion and the Rights of Children with Albinism in Kenya’, by Irene Katunge Nyamu.

‘Troubling Paradox: Gaps between Policy and Reality; Child Poverty and Wellbeing in India’, by Pranab Kumar Chanda

‘Universal Primary Education under Decentralization: An asset or liability to rural schools and communities of Uganda?’ by Agnes Kawala

‘Examining the Dichotomies of Social Protection:   Is the South African Child Support Grant alleviating poverty or perpetuating dependency?’ by Zanele Silo

‘Urban poverty and social protection; Ideal versus reality in the intervention strategies. A Case study of Kazi kwa Vijana (Work for Youth) in Kenyan slums’, by Dominic Ngumbi Mutuku

‘Exploring the Phenomenon of Child-adult partnership for street begging in Tamale, Ghana’, by Wedadu Sayibu.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


studying_SEA_comics-940x400Development studies and practice has a tendency to represent large parts of the world as places of poverty, misery and underdevelopment. In this regard, a look at the creative industry works as a useful corrective. It brings to the forefront the dynamic and creative dimension that is also part and parcel of the so-called ‘developing world’, and at times sheds an interesting light on questions of development.

The Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia presents a special issue entitled ‘Studying Comics from Southeast Asia’. As Jacqueline Berndt observes in her introductory essay:

…research on comics cultures is dominated by the comparison between North America, Western Europe and Japan, occasionally including Korea and also the Chinese-language markets, in particular with respect to manga. 

A focus on comics from Southeast Asia is thus much welcomed and the issue provides a useful introduction to the world of comics in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

From a youth studies perspective I would have liked to see more about the consumers of comics and the role of comics in youth sub-cultures. The contribution about Vietnam by Nguyen Hong Phuc goes someway into such a direction where it discusses the controversy around the picture book Sát Thủ Đầu Mưng Mủ by the Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thanh Phong. The book recreates Vietnamese proverbs and includes new slang which it does through a total of 120 drawings that are each accompanied by a short caption playing on common informal Vietnamese idioms. Nguyen Hong Phuc illustrates this with the following example:

…the traditional Vietnamese saying “when a horse is sick, the whole stable refuses grass”, which means “love people like loving oneself”, was revised to “when a horse is sick, the whole stable can eat more grass” which implies a degree of selfishness and uncaring for others. 

Although such creative use of language received considerable critique leading to a halt on the publication of the book, it also received support. Nguyen Hong Phuc reports that in a debate organised at the French Cultural Centre in Hanoi (in 2012) on ‘the language of youths in the internet age’ many youth voiced their support for Nguyen Thanh Phong’s work. Importantly, some Vietnamese scholars took side with these youth by pointing out that:

new ways of playing around with Vietnamese words and re-creating idoms were innovative since the official Vietnamese language could not reflect such expressions well enough, thus, it created new value from the old

Perhaps, then, development studies scholars have much to learn from reading comics as it arguably captures people’s experiences and perceptions of socio-economic change much more aptly than any large scale survey on such matters.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


downloadA recently issued report of a qualitative research project sheds important light on the living conditions and well-being of undocumented migrant children in the Netherlands, but also raises some questions about researching this group of children.

In May 2014, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, Defence for Children, and the ‘Stichting Landelijk Ongedocumenteerden Steunpunt‘ issued a report detailing the findings of a collaborative research project into the living conditions and well-being of undocumented children in four Dutch cities (Utrecht, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Amsterdam). The study was designed to address the following questions:

What is the number of undocumented children in the Netherlands (and particularly in the city of Utrecht)?

How do these children experience their housing and living conditions?

To what extent are the conditions for child development ensured among the research population?

What recommendations may be drawn for municipality level policies to ensure the conditions for child development among this research population?

Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the research population the first question is not answered conclusively. Still, this section makes an interesting read about the various dilemmas encountered in attempts to quantify the research population (for example, schools or other institutions may not be willing to share such sensitive data) as well as on the methods by which some other organisations nonetheless produce numbers, whilst also making one wonder about the apparent desire to quantify even in situations where this is inherently difficult, if not impossible.

The other research questions are addressed on the basis of semi-structured interviews with a total of 29 undocumented migrant children (from 27 different households). Key findings include the poverty in which many of these children live, resulting in, for example, little varied and at times unhealthy diets. Poverty also characterised the housing conditions, with children often sharing one room with their parents. Many of the children also frequently moved house. All the interviewed children attend school, and accessing basic health services (GP) appeared in most cases possible. Nonetheless, many children experienced stress related to their undocumented status with all due consequences. The research further found a fairly tight safety net around these children comprising of teachers, social workers, neighbours, etc. These networks functioned as an important source of support (e.g. gifts) and also worked in a protective manner as the research team found it hard to convince such ‘gatekeepers’ to have these undocumented migrant children participate in the research.

Despite the importance of making visible the well-being and living conditions of this group of children, the methodology used also raises some questions. First, whilst on the one hand this group of children is considered ‘vulnerable’ all interviews were conducted by students (fourth year students in relevant programmes). The report includes a note (p9) on the deep impact this research work has made on the concerned students yet fails to engage with the ethics of delegating the fieldwork component to relatively inexperienced (and no doubt cheap) field researchers. A good argument for involving students in the research would have been to broaden the language range of the research team (allowing for interviews in children’s first language in case this is not Dutch). However, this seems a road not taken as children with insufficient Dutch language skills were excluded from the research – a rather strange practice in researching undocumented migrants. Lastly, the young respondents were accessed through the networks of the Dutch foundation (‘stichting’) that collaborated in the research. As the report rightly notes (p29), this means that possibly a rather large group of undocumented migrants have remained invisible to the research team. However, I would add that this may also have affected the sample as it may possibly have excluded undocumented migrant children not attending school or with greater difficulties accessing basic health services. Furthermore, it also means one of the key findings (the presence of a safety net) needs some further qualification as this may not necessarily apply to many other undocumented migrant children in the Netherlands.

posted by Roy Huijsmans 




UntitledIn a previous post I have commented on the academic platform Erasmus University Rotterdam offers to the financial industry in a university course specifically designed for Dutch primary school children. In this post I will take a look at the exercise book that the participating children get to use as part of the programme (see cover page above).

The cover page and the title (‘Beleggen: een goed belegde boterham’) leaves no doubt about the overall message of the course material: financial investment pays – in fact it pays very well! Yet, a discursive reading of the exercise book reveals another message: financial investment doesn’t only pay, not doing it is foolish.

How is this second message delivered? The first chapter on ‘money’ asks participants some general questions about their financial situation: do you have money? If so, what is the source of income, what do you do with it, and do you save? This is followed by a second chapter with the title: ‘Spending or saving?’. In this chapter simply putting money aside, instead of putting it into a savings account, is presented as not very financial-savvy as there is no interest earned. This message is given further weight in chapter 3 on ‘inflation’, which makes students realise through a range of simple calculations that the purchasing power of their Euros diminishes overtime. This leads to the question of ‘whether there are ways to earn money whilst saving’ (p.11). The answer to this question is presented in chapter 4 on ‘financial investment’ and is further explored in a number of chapters that follow.

The conclusion that is presented to the participating primary school students is that financial investments make much sense (because it is profitable) if you have spare money. It is also acknowledged that losses may be incurred but that’s ultimately not a real danger because ‘risks’ are presented as manageable and knowable.

This narrative, however, is based on a number of silences. What, then, are the questions that are muted? I note here two main ones: first, there is the unquestioned idea that money must make more money – it must be made profitable. Another important silence is found in the chapter on inflation which is presented as a natural phenomenon which silences any question about its why’s and how’s.

If universities are places to exchange ideas, further knowledge and question what we know and how we know this then such silencing is deeply problematic, particularly if the larger aim of the project is to introduce primary school students to the university.




Gammy with his surrogate mother

Gammy with his surrogate mother

The evolving case of Baby Gammy – a child who was born to an Australian couple through a Thai commercial surrogate but was allegedly abandoned by the commissioning parents when they learned he had Downs Syndrome – has sparked international debate about the ethics and legalities of international surrogacy arrangements.

These are just the kinds of issues that will be debated next week as the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) hosts an International Forum on Intercountry Adoption and Surrogacy.

Nearly one hundred scholars, activists, and policymakers from 27 different countries will come together to discuss ways to improve international standards around the evolving practices of cross-border adoption and surrogacy, in which children typically move from poorer to wealthier countries.

The Forum takes place ahead of the next Special Commission of the Hague Conference’s Convention on Intercountry Adoption in spring 2015 which will discuss the ongoing concerns about intercountry adoption in light of patterns of fraud and ‘failed’ adoptions. The Hague Conference has also issued a report on surrogacy, expressing concerns over the exploitation of women and the status of children born under international surrogacy arrangements.

With its aim of providing an evidence base for international adoption and surrogacy problems and/or best practices, the Forum will consist of plenary discussions and sessions on crosscutting themes pertinent to the Special Commission. These include children’s best interests, families and countries of origin, and issues of fraud and coercion.

Forum keynotes and plenaries will be live streamed at iss.nl/live throughout the 3 days of the Forum, 11-13 August. Proceedings will be published on the ISS website in November. For more information, go to www.iss.nl/adoption_surrogacy

Mining for Malnutrition?

Category: aid| child poverty

15 Jun 2014

micronutirent-powder-sachet-open-in-hand‘Superkid’, Millennium Development Goals, an Australian mining multi-national, power powder, open pit gold mining, malnutrition, the Hong Kong stock exchange and UNICEF. Since 10 June 2014 these seemingly disconnected ideas, actors and practices come together in a remarkably concrete form: a tiny sachet containing a micronutrient powder to be sprinkled on rice fed to Lao infants.

What is all this about? Since late 2011, the Australian headquartered and Hong Kong stock exchange listed multinational mining company MMG has been in a public-private partnership with UNICEF Laos and the Lao government. Child malnutrition has long been a development concern in Laos, where UNICEF reported in 2012 that ‘thirty-one per cent of children under 5 are underweight, and 48 per cent are stunted’, whilst further noting that ‘more than one third of deaths of children under 5 years old in developing countries, like the Lao people’s Democratic Republic, are attributable to it’. According to UNICEF, the problem isn’t so much one of no food or too little but one of overreliance on rice which provides a sufficient energy base yet not all the necessary nutrients.

Concerned that persisting high levels of child malnutrition will put reaching the Millennium Development Goal 4 on child survival at risk, the Lao government welcomes the ’1000 Days project’. In this project, the Lao Ministry of Health, Unicef Laos, MMG, PSI, and the Lao Women’s Union have partnered in order to distribute micro-nutrient sachets (branded ‘Superkid’) to families with children under 2 years of age at no cost to these families in three provinces in Laos.

MMG, which exploits open pit copper and gold mines in one of the concerned provinces (Savannakhet) has, according to Unicef, pledged US$1.38 million to the project. On its own website, MMG further details that ’the 1000 Day Project aims to reach an estimated 180,000 Lao children, aged 6 to 59 months, via the distribution of approximately 4 million micronutrient sachets, each containing important vitamins, zinc and other nutrients’. In addition, Unicef states that ‘additional sachets will be subsidized and made available to families with children under 5 years old’.

In line with wider trends in development practice, it is perfectly possible to contribute to this very concrete and highly localised public-private initiative in a rather remote part of the world from anywhere provided there is an internet connection and a credit card at hand. How this works? Through the Unicef-MMG ‘matched giving website‘! Its webpages explain that ‘every micronutrient powder gift purchased online will be matched by MMG, dollar for dollar, resulting in double the impact for children in need’. Donating $25 pays for 750 sachets; sufficient for 2 infants over a period of one year. However, since MMG doubles the amount (with a stated ceiling of $25,000), clicking the ‘pay button’ will ‘save’ four Lao infants for the price of two…

Despite the apparent simplicity of the intervention,  reading the various webpages reporting about the project there appears plenty of confusion and quite a few worrysome errors. Whilst Unicef mentions that the project will be rolled out in three Southern Lao provinces, MMG includes also a northern province (Phongsaly) among the three target provinces. Also, whereas Unicef mentions that MMG has pledged US$1.38 to the project on one of its webpages, it talks about 1.5 million on another site. There also appears something wrong with the maths. From the figures on the matched giving website we can deduce that a child needs a sachet a day. If so, how will 4 million sachets be sufficient to reach the estimated target population of 180,000 Lao children, as MMG explains, even if we were to limit ourselves to one year only (65 million appears a more realistic figure)?

Ultimately however, I guess the real issues aren’t in any of what I have listed above but in the simple observation that there might be something wrong more fundamentally if the same rural spaces that generate great wealth for some remain sites with high levels of child malnutrition for so many others.

posted by Roy Huijsmans



UntitledChildren, the university and the financial industry: these may seem awkward partners, yet nothing is less true at Erasmus University Rotterdam. In this and subsequent posts I will look at what is happening at Erasmus University Rotterdam and why this matters.

The Dutch ‘asset manager’ ROBECO is one of the partners of Erasmus University Rotterdam’s ‘scientific junction’ programme (in Dutch: ‘wetenschapsknooppunt‘). Through this programme, Erasmus University Rotterdam offers a range of activities to Dutch primary school students (and their teachers) with the aim of introducing them to science, research and the university. This includes bringing children to the university for specifically designed ‘children’s lectures’, researchers visiting primary schools, short scientific courses designed for primary school students, etc.

Children are part of a world that is increasingly financialising, and Dutch children are no exception. Children may also be seen as a perpetual demographic frontier of financial markets. In this sense the young are an important strategic terrain for both the reproduction and also expansion of financial markets. Hence, one should not be surprised to find that the financial industry has indeed a keen interest in reaching children (as also noted HERE).

What is happening here goes yet a step further. By cooperating with a publicly funded university in the name of science, ROBECO gains a degree of legitimacy for its financial practices precisely in a time the very system of which investment banking is an outcome and the very ethics and sustainability of such financial practices have come increasingly into question.

posted by Roy Huijsmans




Looking at this picture, the first impression that came to my mind was how sweet this boy is. Then I asked myself: Is this child work or child labor? And is the activity conducted by the child empowering and appropriate for the child? What does the existing literature in development and childhood studies has to say about this? What position would development practitioners/experts and Social Workers on the ground take? And what would this picture mean in the eyes of indigenous people residing in the locality where the picture is shot? And most importantly what would be the view of this child himself on this picture?

For me, I know it is impossible to say much about what is depicted here without understanding the social environment and the current situation of the child. Yet, the picture was posted on an open Facebook page without any story or caption attached. The Facebook page is called ‘Ethiopian Kids’ and uses the slogan ‘For Ethiopians who love their KIDS’. Its current membership stands at 13,764 members.

The picture seems popular. Since it was posted on 19th May 2014 it has received 195 ‘likes’ and 35 ‘shares’. It also received a total of eleven comments – yet, not a word in these comments about the questions I have raised, only words about the cuteness of the boy in the picture. In many ways this particular picture is representative of the other pictures posted on this Facebook page: members post pictures of children and comment on how lovely these children are. Whilst I share these sentiments, it glosses over many other issues and leaves me wondering what the children themselves would say about their pictures.

guest contribution by Fasil Nigussie Taye (PhD researcher in PER research programme at the ISS)


Despite an increasing number of notable exceptions, the field of youth studies remains dominated by research conducted in the Global North. The PhD thesis (entitled Growing Up and Being Young in an Indonesian Provincial Town ) by ISS alumnus Wenty Marina Minza (Population and Development programme 2003-04) makes thus a welcome contribution to the field.

Wenty holds a position at the Faculty of Psychology at Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and her PhD research was carried out as part of the KITLV coordinated research project In Search of Middle Indonesia. The PhD work was conducted in the context of Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR) of the University of Amsterdam with Prof Mario Rutten and Prof Ben White as promotors, and successfully defended on Wednesday 14th May 2014.

The thesis is centrally concerned with bringing together two main perspectives on youth. One is the so-called ‘growing up’ perspective which views youth through the lens of transitions in some key life domains (work, education, marriage) and underpins much research on youth by governments and nongovermental organisations (and dominates work on youth in the international development studies literature). The other is the so-called ‘being young’ perspective which underpins much research on youth cultures and aims to understand young people in their own right by focusing on their everyday, and at times subaltern, practices of being young.

The interplay between these two different dimensions of young people’s lives is studied through a focus on educated youth in the provincial city of Pontianak, West Kalimantan. To this end a total of 106 young people were interviewed (most of them university students) as well as a number of parents and other adult informants. Most of the research was conducted by employing in-depth qualitative interviews, however a survey (n=369) adds some important quantitative dimensions to the findings.

The thesis commences with a brief introduction which is followed by a literature review which discusses some main theoretical perspectives in the field of youth studies with much clarity. A next chapter introduces the research context (Pontianak, Indonesia), and also introduces a series of useful vernacular concepts concerning being young and growing up. This is followed by three empirical chapters. One on family expectations and cultures of educated youth, one on meaningful work and youth cultures of waiting and finally a chapter on courtship, explorations and long-term relationships. A concluding chapter revisits the research questions and draws out the main theoretical contributions of the study.

Observing that concerns about ‘being young’ and ‘growing up’ are often deeply intertwined in young people’s lives leads Minza to propose a ‘growing up while being young’ pattern and a ‘being young while growing up’ pattern. The latter she observes most clearly in the education domain. Whilst educational qualifications are considered crucial for social mobility and progressing in life, the space of the school provides ample scope for being young. Being a university student grants them the mahasiswa identity (literally ‘great student’), which is performed through particular styles of being young. Growing up whilst being young highlights how concerns such as finding a spouse and negotiating the many contradictions of education as a resources are important in order to realise a sense of social maturation and to live up to family and societal expectations. Whilst few young people realise the aspired civil service job, many do make a ‘transition to somewhere’ (rather than a transition to nowhere). Furthermore, the informal and at times menial jobs many of these educated youth obtain are not just that. For example, many of the young women may be overqualified for the work they do in shopping malls and possibly underpaid, yet these jobs also provide space for performing much aspired modern youthful identities. Another strength is that in teasing out the various ways being young and growing up interact, Minza illuminates how relations of gender and also ethnicity shape such dynamics.

Some work carried out as part of the PhD has already been published (see for example HERE) and hopefully more will follow.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


International Institute of Social Studies

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.

  • cys: Hi Natalia. Please go here for finished ISS MA research papers: http://thesis.eur.nl/org/5 [...]
  • Natalia: The research areas are diverse and very interesting - it would be fantastic to be able to share some [...]
  • SHipra Saxena: Hi... Can I please get an access to the paper, I am unable to download it. My email id is shiprasaxe [...]
  • Shane Powell: Kind thanks for your interest in this project. As posted to yours and other's comments on LaoFab, pl [...]
  • Degwale Gebeyehu belay: When I look at this picture, I start to remember my childhood! It is real reflection of a child in r [...]

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