The social world of street children : street children's peer friendship, group life and subculture in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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This study attempts to explore the street children’s social world, focusing on their peer friendship, group life, and street subculture in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The study shows how street children’s peer friendship, street group, and subculture are part and parcel of children’s quest for survival in the street in the absence of guardians conventionally considered as responsible for the provision and protection of children. The main perspective of the study is grounded in the philosophy of the social studies of children and childhood, particularly on the principles of childhood as a social construct, and children as social agents in their own right. In addition, other concepts and theories which are relevant to study children and childhood in a street context are included as the foundational frameworks of the study. These are subculture theory, social capital, and we-ness. The research methodology of the study is based on the philosophy of qualitative research design. The study draws on a multi-method fieldwork, lasting for (8 weeks), using focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation together with informal dialogue. Researcher’s own field notes and reflections over field observations are also included. The study mainly used the above-mentioned methods to obtain data from the key participants of the study, the street children (aged 9-17) in three chosen sites of the city center, namely Meskel Square, Ambassador Park, and National Theater. Fifteen street children participated in the study, thirteen boys and two girls. The street children are locally called ‘berenda adarioch,’ which can be translated to children who sleep on verandas and have made the street as their source of income. In addition, I conducted semi-structured interviews with an official from the Addis Ababa bureau of social and labor affairs. The analysis of this study reveals that children in the street situation are not passive victims because of living on the streets or ‘living outside of their proper space’ with the absent adults to guide and control. Rather street children’s peer friendship and group life together with their street subculture enables children in accessing support to survive, and provides space to exercise their freedom in forming their own street subculture without adults’ control.