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Child Migration in Africa

Child Migration in Africa

Iman Hashim | Doctor Dorte Thorsen


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Child Migration in Africa explores the mobility of children without their parents within West Africa. Drawing on the experiences of children from rural Burkina Faso and Ghana, the book provides rich material on the circumstances of children's voluntary migration and their experiences of it. Their accounts challenge the normative ideals of what a 'good' childhood is, which often underlie public debates about children's migration, education and work in developing countries. The comparative study of Burkina Faso and Ghana highlights that social networks operate in ways that can be both enabling and constraining for young migrants, as can cultural views on age- and gender-appropriate behaviour. The book questions easily made assumptions regarding children's experiences when migrating independently of their parents and contributes to analytical and cross-cultural understandings of childhood. Part of the groundbreaking Africa Now series, Child Migration in Africa is an important and timely contribution to an under-researched area.
Dorte Thorsen is a visiting research fellow at the department of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading. She has published book chapters, policy papers and articles in the journals Migrations & Homes, Africa, Forum for Development Studies and the Journal for Comparative Family Studies. Iman Hashim is a Research Fellow at the Department of International Relations, Istanbul Kulutur University. She also has worked for national and international non-governmental organisations as a programme and a research officer.
'This well-written research-based text offers fascinating insights into the complexities of children's migrant experiences in West Africa. Based on ethnographic research in the rural sending communities as well as interviews at the migrant destinations, Hashim and Thorsen use in-depth empirical examples in order to place children's accounts at the centre of their analysis. A timely, comprehensive and engaging book which illuminates the diversity and challenges of understanding processes of children's migration.' Samantha Punch, University of Stirling 'Without either romanticising children's resilience or disregarding their agency, this book places children's voices and views at the centre of a careful and cogent analysis of children's independent migration in West Africa. Original, intelligent and accessible, it adds significantly to current academic and policy debate on childhood, migration and mobility.' Julia O’Connell Davidson, University of Nottingham 'In trash dumps, brothels and other sites where children toil in the worst forms of child labor, it is not unusual to encounter a preponderance of children who have migrated outside their family support networks. This study is an important early contribution in the nascent literature aimed at understanding independent child migration . It provides voice to independent child migrants in West Africa. The diversity of experiences is thought-provoking. This impressive work will serve as a foundation for further research that examines the extent to which these narrative accounts generalize beyond the voices found by these authors.' Eric Edmonds, University of Dartmouth 'The amazing stories of children who leave behind their families to fight poverty take shape from the field notes of clever interviewers. So responsible and determined, these "young youths" strive to achieve essential elements of well-being, such as health, education and economic security. Children's decisions to migrate are placed in context with a rigorous method of investigation and the result is a vivid portrait of people's lives within households and villages of Burkina Faso and Ghana.' Gianna Giannelli, Associate Professor of Economics in the Faculty of Law, University of Florence

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
About the authors ii
Preface vii
1 | Introduction: interrogating childhood and migration 1
Universalizing ideals of childhood 2
Childhood and its constituting concepts 7
The mobility–migration nexus in West Africa 11
Children’s migration 13
Conclusion 17
2 | Contexts of migration 20
Map 2.1 The research areas in West Africa 22
Communities generating child migrants 22
Histories of migration 25
Children’s worlds and work 28
Children’s worlds and learning 33
Conclusion: the importance of context 38
3 | Choosing to move: the reasons for rural children’s migration 42
Researching with children 44
Moving to find work 46
Moving and education 49
Moving to ‘help’ 53
Moving and family crisis 55
Children’s migration and inter-generational conflict 57
Negotiated moves: the gendered nature of children’s migratory trajectories 60
Conclusion 63
4 | Journeys and arrivals: introductions to new social worlds 65
Social networks, kin and relatedness 66
Map 4.1 Amadou’s travel route 67
Peer networks facilitating adolescents’ migration 68
Getting in touch with established migrants 72
Children’s and youth’s journeys 75
The first journey 75
Safety mechanisms, trafficking and opportunistic journeys 76
Arriving in new spaces 81
Conclusion: journeying as part of extensive migrant networks 83
5 | Navigating migrant life: processes of constructing identities 85
Getting into migrant work at rural and urban destinations 87
Striving for autonomy 95
Mobility at the destination 99
Educational dreams and dilemmas 103
Navigating identities and social contexts as migrants 109
6 | Moving on 111
Revisiting the universalized ideals 114
Evaluating children’s choices 116
Strategies in moving and the multiplicity of possible transitions 119
Negotiating social statuses 123
Child migrants’ tactical choices 125
Postscript 127
Notes 128
Chapter 1 128
Chapter 2 129
Chapter 3 129
Chapter 4 130
Chapter 5 130
Bibliography 132
Index 145