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Putting Children First: Session 2.2.A Gina Crivello & Ginny Morrow - Beating the odds [24-Oct-17]


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Putting Children First: Identifying solutions and taking action to tackle poverty and inequality in Africa.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 23-25 October 2017

This three-day international conference aimed to engage policy makers, practitioners and researchers in identifying solutions for fighting child poverty and inequality in Africa, and in inspiring action towards change. The conference offered a platform for bridging divides across sectors, disciplines and policy, practice and research.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Putting Children First: Session 2.2.A Gina Crivello & Ginny Morrow - Beating the odds [24-Oct-17]

  1. 1. Beating the Odds: Why have some children fared well despite growing up in poverty? Putting Children First: Identifying solutions and taking action to tackle poverty and inequality in Africa Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 23-25 October 2017 Gina Crivello and Virginia Morrow Department of International Development University of Oxford
  2. 2. Outline • About the Young Lives study • Approach to answering the question and identifying children who ‘beat the odds’ • Emerging findings – examples of children • Challenges and implications
  3. 3. AIM: to improve understanding of the causes & consequences of childhood poverty and provide evidence to improve policies & practice. LONGITUDINAL: Following 12,000 children in 4 countries (Ethiopia, India-Andhra Pradesh, Telengana - Peru, Vietnam) over 15 years. METHODOLOGY: Interdisciplinary and mixed method: survey data collection combined with longitudinal qualitative research SAMPLE: Pro-poor; 20 sites in each country selected to reflect country diversity, rural-urban, livelihoods, ethnicity, etc; roughly equal numbers of boys and girls. COHORT DESIGN: Two age cohorts in each country o 2,000 children born in 2000-01 (younger cohort) o 1,000 children born in 1994-95 (older cohort) Young Lives: cohort study of child poverty
  4. 4. Child-focused methods Repeat biographical interview (qualitative) Main data sources for this paper Children’s life-maps / timelines (children identify important life events, current circumstances and aspirations for the future) Repeat survey questionnaire (quantitative)
  5. 5. Exploring Trajectories of Hope Age 12 Age 19/20 MIKI TUFA AFEWORK (Sense of hope) (Sense of hopelessness) Miki: “Working hard but not changing your life” (the crushing effects of poverty) ‘Tufa’ – ‘Since I am the only boy in the family…’ (gender and sibling composition) Afework: ‘I am the fruit of their hard work’ (the role of family support)
  6. 6. What we looked for in the data (4 countries) What are the determining moments in children’s lives? What makes a difference for children during these turning points? What made a difference in the lives of those children who have fared well despite facing adversity? How do children/youth navigate their life trajectories in contexts of adversity and uncertainty?
  7. 7. A variety of potential approaches ‘resilient cases’ ‘positive deviants’ ‘outliers’ ‘success stories’ ‘exceptional cases’ children who ‘buck the trend’ ‘overcome the odds’
  8. 8. Ordinariness of resilience ‘Resilience does not come from rare and special qualities, but from the everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources in the minds, brains and bodies of children, in their families and relationships, and in their communities. This has profound implications for promoting competence and human capital in individuals and society…’ (Masten 2001:235) Differing approaches in resilience studies ‘variable-focused’ (loses a sense of the whole person) vs ‘person-focused’ analysis (but risks obscuring specific linkages) Masten (2001; et al 2004) ‘ecological perspective’ (mainly quantitative) vs ‘constructionist approach’ (better accounts for cultural and contextual differences) Ungar (2004) ‘children’s own perspective on their culturally embedded pathways to resilience have remained largely silenced’ (Ungar 2004: 358)
  9. 9. Critical approaches to the life course & its contexts ‘vital conjunctures’ (Johnson-Hanks 2002) – move away from ‘stages of life’ approach, and defined as a ‘socially structured zone of possibility that emerges around specific periods of potential transformation in a life or lives’ Identifying: ‘what horizons, what futures, are imagined, hoped for, or feared’ and what shifts these Agency (Ortner 2006) – seen less as a psychological property of individuals and more of a disposition toward the enactment of ‘projects’ and the pursuit of goals. Individuals always embedded in webs of relations and of power. ‘Anthropologies of Hope’ (Crapanzano 2003) and ‘Ethnographies of Uncertainty’ (Cooper and Pratten 2014; Di Nunzio 2014) Uncertainty (not only as context) as ‘the lived experience of a pervasive sense of vulnerability, anxiety, hope, and possibility mediated through the material assemblages that underpin, saturate, and sustain everyday life.’ (Cooper and Pratten 2014: 1) Uncertainty as productive of hope, something that is embraced by youth (Di Nunzio 2014:169)
  10. 10. How did we identify ‘beating the odds’? SURVEY DATA Select a list of indicators (age 19): enrolment, math and reading scores, socio-emotional scores, marriage status, subjective wealth, work Identify ‘the averages’: by gender, location, wealth status & whole cohort And then… Located cases from qualitative sample in relation to the averages (age 19/20): Prioritised children from poorest households Identified a shortlist of girls and boys: Created longitudinal profiles of a selection of cases based on 5 time points of data
  11. 11. Diversity within country 0 5 10 15 20 25 Primary level Secondary Pre-university Vocational/diploma University female male Grade levels of 19 year-olds enrolled in school in Ethiopia (n=539) Shows: there is a huge spread among those enrolled at age 19, from primary through to university levels (Source: Tafere 2017)
  12. 12. Emerging Findings – Beating the Odds What are the determining moments in children’s lives? What makes a difference for children during these turning points?
  13. 13. “Pressure points” in children’s lives (full sample) • Poverty, chronic illness and family discord created ongoing pressures for children; these were punctuated by intense shocks (e.g. death) and transitions (e.g. changing school) • Coming of age created pressure points: e.g., around puberty: for girls, constrained mobility, and for boys, pressures to work; for aid beneficiaries (e.g. ‘orphans’): ‘ageing out’ and losing benefits • Vital conjunctures: under highly pressurised conditions, turning points could become tipping points. Factors meditating the effects Household & sibling composition ---- Family resources ---- Availability & access to services Child’s age, gender, birth order, location ---- Social connections, migration network Potential effects Long absences from school, leaving school Increased responsibilities, paid/unpaid work Diminished hope Economic decline Climatic shocks (drought, rains, pests) School structures (exams, teacher conflict) Child illness Parental illness and death Household changes (divorce, job or asset loss, sibling marriage)
  14. 14. Children who fared well in adversity What helped? Rather than one single factor, a combination of timely, mutually reinforcing factors were needed for children to ‘overcome the odds’ in the face of poverty and adversity Relationships - Where formal support & safety nets were lacking, children relied heavily on their social connections Community, NGOs - External support systems moderated the effects of household adversity on children, particularly during pressure points but, for some (eg ‘orphans’), over the long-term Individual resources - Children fared well when their positive dispositions and competencies were supported by their relationships, wider structures and opportunities • Siblings - especially elder sisters, as role models, financial support and migration facilitators • Parents – supportive of schooling/education • Wider kin – cousins, aunts, grandparents, for access to jobs, schooling, networks, migration and places to live • Teachers – sympathetic, supportive champions during pressure points • Motivated, with a belief in the ability to succeed (despite obstacles) • Access to work that is compatible with schooling • Access to migration network (for schooling, work) • Rewarded for achievements (e.g. relieved of work responsibilities to focus on academics) • Positive outlook on the future • NGOs (food aid, support for schooling, bicycles, tutoring); church, youth groups and clubs • Schools – flexibility during pressure points for children • Services – electricity, new irrigation systems • Norms encouraging children’s schooling
  15. 15. Case example: MULU What helped Mulu? What were the turning points in her life? • RELATIONSHIPS: Supportive elder sister (role model, economic provider, migration facilitator) • INDIVIDUAL RESOURCES: Determination and self-identification as a clever student; working to pay for school • COMMUNITY AND EXTERNAL SUPPORTS: Electricity, extended hours of school library, aid • From rural community, Amhara region • Poorest household (quintile 1) • 5th of 7 siblings • Managed paid work and schooling through out childhood • Despite poverty and recent pressure to redirect her attention to paid work, she remains focused on schooling • Used her family network (elder sister) to migrate • Age 22, she is in her 3rd year of university
  16. 16. Case example: MESIH What helped Mesih? What were the turning points in his life? • RELATIONSHIPS: Supportive older siblings and mother ( economic providers, migration facilitators) • INDIVIDUAL RESOURCES: Self-belief (‘good student’) and determination • COMMUNITY AND EXTERNAL SUPPORTS: Community development, agricultural improvements, teachers • From rural community, Tigray region • Poorest household (quintile 1) • 4th of 5 siblings • Early low school ambition becomes stronger in light of good school performance • Moved in and out of school, facing difficulties • Endurance in school rewarded with reduced workload • Used his family network (elder sister) to migrate • Age 22, he is in Grade 12
  17. 17. Case example - HAFTEY The most striking feature during her first decade of life was the death of both of her parents. Haftey was raised by her grandmother since the age of 7 and she doesn’t have any siblings. She went to live with her aunt in the city so she could access a better school.
  19. 19. Serendipity and second chances Follow-up interview age 20: Haftey had progressed well in school and completed the 10th grade. She was expecting to continue in her education, but did not pass the 10th grade examination. At that point, she lost all hope for her education. She found a job working in a garage. A chance meeting with relatives led to them helping her secure a visa to work as a domestic maid in the Middle East which she did for two years. Fortunately, her employers were kind to her. She remitted money back home and saved ~1400USD for herself which she planned to use to open her own garage. Looking back at her childhood Haftey is pleased that she at least made it to grade 10. She explained: “Because if I’d dropped out earlier, say in the 3rd or 4th grade, maybe they would have made me get married, and that would have ruined me as a child. For those who stay in the village soon you’ll be married. In the city it is different, they push you towards schooling. I can say that since I reached up to the 10th grade, I know myself and I can support myself. I can lead my life by working.”
  20. 20. Challenges and reflections • Searching for the ‘extraordinary’ children was a futile exercise; those who ‘beat the odds’ are ordinary children in extraordinary circumstances. • A focus on individuals (‘cases’) needs to be balanced by a relational perspective / trajectories are intertwined (e.g. siblings, Mulu’s ‘success’ needs to be in light of negative repercussions on younger sister) / points to the value of intra- household analysis
  21. 21. Challenges and reflections • Age 22, although we can identify aspects of intergenerational change and social mobility (e.g. 25% children reached secondary school level compared to 6% of parents), we cannot say which children have ‘escaped poverty’ (1 in 3 still enrolled in school) ‘beating the odds’ – an ongoing process • A flexible, open-ended approach is required: There are limits to a ‘snapshot’ approach to gauging ‘success’ at any one age, for any one individual, but even a longer-term view shows that young people’s trajectories in poverty remain fragile and dynamic and their futures uncertain. *importance of second (third, fourth…) chances*
  22. 22. • methodology and research papers • datasets (UK Data Archive) • publications • child profiles and photos • e-newsletter FINDING OUT MORE