Things are starting to get exciting at my placement with StreetInvest. I have narrowed down my area of investigation, focusing primarily on street children’s experiences with the police and the law. Concentrating particularly upon the police perception of street children, built from the language used to describe them and how this impacts upon their attitudes and actions. It has also been necessary to concentrate within a particular region as values held and the lives of street children vary so much globally. I have chosen to focus on Southern Asia, specifically India and Nepal. This decision stems from my time in Nepal a few summers ago, where I had my first experience of street children and initially became interested in their plight.
Why the focus on language?
I have decided to look specifically into language as it is the root of all perceptions and therefore the basis for attitudes and values. The children are understood and become synonymous with the names they are called. Instead of seeing a child in their own right, they simply see a street child, making assumptions on all aspects of their lives.
But why do perceptions matter?
Well, the children’s lives are influenced daily by the way they are viewed both through their treatment in their everyday lives as well as in government’s attitudes and policy implementation. UNICEF states that one of the greatest challenges faced by a street child is not being recognised and treated as individuals with rights.
And why specifically to do with the police?
Police can and should play a central part in providing a safe environment in which all citizens can obtain their full rights. It is argued that they play one of the most important social roles in progression with in developing countries. Their attitudes towards street children are the basis from which society builds their understandings upon, so it’s vital that their role in the children’s lives is fully explored.
So what am I going to do?
I am lucky enough to be working with two organisations, one based in Pokhara, Nepal (Kidasha) and the other in Kolkatta, India (Little Big Help). With the help of these two NGOs I will be conducting focus groups with the children to explore their experiences with the police and how they relate to them as well as hopefully getting the local police officers to fill in questionnaires on their perceptions of the children and the language they hear and use to them and to represent them. I also hope to conduct interviews with those working for the organisations to get as much of an understanding of the dynamics of the language use and relationship between the children and law enforcement as possible. Not easy when I’m 5000 miles away!
I will update soon when everything is underway!