“Growing big in the streets” : Lusaka's street youths' voices of poverty in the streets

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201703272336
Title: “Growing big in the streets” : Lusaka's street youths' voices of poverty in the streets
Author: Harju, Elina
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2013
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201703272336
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/38857
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Social Work
Sosiaalityö
Socialt arbete
Abstract: Street children´s life situations have received a lot of attention both in the media and in research in the recent years. In the literature street children are often defined as being under the age of 18. In this thesis, the focus group is the street youth, meaning the adolescents and young adults who either live full-time in the streets or are otherwise strongly connected with the street life. The research interest was to study how poverty is present in the lives of the street youth, and how their experiences of poverty in the streets and their own agency change when they grow older. A further interest was to find out how street life enables transition into adult roles in the society. The theoretical background of the thesis consists of introducing the discussion of structure and agency in social sciences as a way to understand the social life, then introducing the relevant concepts of poverty and social exclusion. Poverty in this thesis is understood in its widest sense, as Amartya Sen has defined it: deprivations of basic capacities that a person has to live the kind of life he or she has a reason to value. Also, the contemporary research on street children is introduced, where the agency perspective has gained space. The thesis also takes a look at some situational factors of the case study country Zambia, which affect the lives of the country’s vulnerable children and youth. This thesis is an ethnographic research consisting of two field work periods in Zambia’s capital city Lusaka. These field work periods took place in July-August 2011 and 2012 in an organization working with street children and youth. The informants were a heterogeneous group of street youth, aged between 14 and 28 and connected to the street life from different positions. The data consists of field notes and 33 recorded interviews with the informants. The results show that most of the street youth expressed reluctance towards their current life in the streets with little prospects for change. Income-wise their poverty seemed to vary, but the money was spent to meet one’s instant needs. Poverty was further expressed in terms of experienced public disrespect and vulnerability to violence and abuse by other street youth as well as police authorities. It also meant remoteness and mistrust in one’s social relationships. Poverty in the streets caused dependency of substances leading to decreased ability to take care of oneself as well as violent behavior. Growing older in the streets seemed to bring increased feelings of wasted years and frustration in one’s life situation, which was in contrast to adult roles in the society. Prolonged street life brought a risk of adopting illegal means and violent and harmful conduct. However, this was not necessarily so, and some of the youth had taken distance to the street life abandoned many of their earlier street behaviors. As chances for employment were small, they were, however, still stuck in the streets to earn living.
Subject: Zambia
street children
street youth
poverty
social exclusion
experiences
katulapset
syrjäytyminen
Sambia


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