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Researching Mobility with Children

Mapping Mobility

Ongoing reviews of the literature on children, mobility and access shows that there is very little written on the subject. Whatever has been written has been compiled by adults, and there is almost nothing in the public domain about children’s own perceptions of mobility and access issues as it affects their lives, or about what they think are the priorities that governments and other transport providers should address. The DFID supported project, led by the University of Durham, UK, for developing a participatory child-centred field methodology or toolkit in order to improve policy on children’s mobility and access aims to redress this imbalance and provide a platform for children from India, Ghana and South Africa to voice their ideas about transport issues.

The project got off to a great start in October with a participatory, child-centred workshop organised by the Concerned for Working Children (CWC) in Karnataka, India. The workshop involved twenty-nine children, aged 9 to 18 from three panchayats where the children’s organisation, Bhima Sangha, had developed five year plans and identified several constraints to children’s mobility and access. In the space of the five day workshop, the children used their knowledge of their transport problems to develop a research framework, and pilot test three tools for conducting research into these problems. These three tools, a transect walk, focus group discussions, and mapping access and mobility for different children, were field tested by the children in one panchayat. CWC aims to continue working with the children to develop two additional research tools: a house-to-house survey and a PRA map.

For the adults the children’s perspectives were revealing. Children engaged in a range of transport activities: they had to go school, they fetched water and firewood, they transported the harvest and collected rations from the shop, they took milk to the market, they accompanied older people to the health centre. Their transport responsibilities result in late attendance in school and tires them out, making it difficult for them to concentrate. It also takes up a lot of their time. They face very different hazards to adults: they cross busy roads, they climb over rocks or big roots of trees, jump over gullies, ford streams or walk on slippery bridges.

Working with CWC who have over twenty-five years of experience working in partnership with children, made the project team realise that if the project is to do more that pay lip-service to children’s participation, it needs to widen its scope. Children must be empowered to use the information generated by the research to advocate on their own behalf, to be in control, and to be a part of decision-making processes and interventions. This is their right to participation, as enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child. IFRTD, the University of Durham and CWC will assist the members of the project team in Ghana and South Africa to lay the foundations for the structures that can make this possible. This requires commitment to continuous involvement of children in all aspects of the research project, and to developing children’s organisations.

For more information contact:
Dr Gina Porter and Dr Kate Hampshire at Durham University
Mr Lolichen and Ms Nandana Reddy, CWC
Dr Albert Abane, Ghana
Mr Mac Mashiri, South Africa


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