Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Listening to Smaller Voices: Children in an Environment of Change


Other authors: 
Joanna Hill and Edda Ivan-Smith

Focus country: 

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THIS REPORT PRESENTS the findings of research on the role of girl and boy children in household livelihood (or survival) strategies and how this has altered with social and environmental changes. It is largely based on research in a district in Nepal, although examples from other countries are also included. The Report demonstrates the extent and nature of the contribution of children to households’ livelihoods and the differences in the contributions of girls and boys. Throughout the text, there are many maps and diagrams developed from household interviews, for instance, resource maps, seasonal calenders showing the nature and intensity of work and flow diagrams showing the consequences of a social or environmental change on a particular household. Quotes from children are also widely used to illustrate points made in the text.
The Report has six main sections and various appendices. Section I is on children as active participants. Their roles and activities within households are an important part of household’s livelihood strategies yet these are rarely understood and children’s views and priorities are rarely considered. These roles and activities are also influenced by economic, social and environmental change. Section II describes the district in Nepal where the research was concentrated and includes resource maps and diagrams that show the important environmental and social changes over the last few decades. Section III considers the impacts of environmental changes on children and what the children feel about these changes. Floods and landslides figure prominently as events that threaten their lives and increase their workloads. Section IV describes the social structure and the discrimination based on caste/ethnicity, poverty and gender. Women have lower status than men and daughters-in-law generally have the lowest status within families. Section V considers the tasks and activities carried out by girls and boys from different income, caste and ethnic groups and includes tables showing the main tasks of boys and girls and their comments about each of these tasks.
Section VI summarizes six steps to improve the quality of life for children. These include the need for international agencies to examine their own internal policies to ensure they are taking intoaccount the activities and perspectives of girls and boys. They also include the need to create alternatives and opportunities for poor people; more adequate and secure livelihoods will mean less pressure on children having to work and to miss school. A third is to provide better employment conditions, including providing pre-school child-care facilities and fair wages and safe working practices for children (as well as adults). After Section VI, there is a postscript with implications for ActionAid, and appendices with a selected literature review of the main issues, the methodology for the research and background information about Nepal. There is also a bibliography and names and addresses of contacts.

Available from: 
Published by and available from ActionAid, Chataway House, Leach Road, Chard, Somerset TA20 1FA, UK, price including postage: £8.70 (UK), £9.50 (Europe), £10.40 (elsewhere).

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