Published by the Daily News Egypt on November 27, 2013. The weak, the strong and the boys: Female street children in Egypt.
My article on the ways female street children develop to live in the gendered space of the street, and how these methods effectively gender the street, was published today by the Daily News Egypt. Please read an excerpt below.
Girls are either pitied for not being able to conform to the gender norms, or despised for the exact same reason. The girls’ own participation in the creation of their roles is not acknowledged. Instead, girls are viewed as passive victims of the circumstances, or of the dominating understanding of gender norms. My research with female street children in Cairo has shown a quite different image. Girls are not just helplessly exposed to some stiff gender norms, but they cope with them, challenge them and shape them themselves. In order to try to understand the living circumstances of girls in the street, one has to ask what girls actually do with the gender norms. How do they perceive them? How do they challenge them? How does a girl in the street perform being a girl in the street? With the aid of the girls themselves, I identified three modes in which girls in the street live and operate: The weak girl, the strong girl and the boy.
Read the full article here.
There are children living in the urban streets of developing and emerging countries. They play in the street, they eat there and fight, they fall in love. There are many facets to their lives that are invisible to the eye of the pedestrian, or to the person driving by in their car. When we see children in the street, we can only identify their most obvious characteristics: They are in the street, they are dirty, they beg. Since these are the only features of street children that are visible, the children are often reduced to these factors. As dirty beggars in the street, they lose their individuality and become a homogeneous mass people pity, despise or are indifferent about.
My article on female street children in Egypt and their gender-specific experiences was published by the Daily News Egypt on November 17, 2013. Below you can see an excerpt of the article.
Interestingly, we mostly discuss street children as if they are a homogeneous group, as if they have no age or gender, although it is evident that the experiences of a 5-year old boy in the street strongly differ from those of a teenage girl. Street children are not ageless, and they are not genderless. They have different backgrounds and experiences, different problems and certainly, different needs. Our discussions about street children become much more interesting when they become more specific: when we talk about working children, street leaders, drug dealers and addicts, or about street girls. When these discussions become more differentiated, more meaningful questions are asked: what does a street girl experience because she is in the street and what does she experience because she is a girl? How does she deal with these gender-specific differences? How does she shape them herself?
A few days ago, I became aware that, very recently (October 2013), a book had been published about female street children in Egypt. I did not hesitate and immediately ordered the book. After all, I had spent a long time researching this topic, and similar published work had to date been non-existent. While ordering “Il Binait Dol – Egypt’s Hidden Shame” by Gwenllian Meredith, I felt sceptical about the title which is copied from a documentary about female street children and which gives the false impression of a connection between the two.
When the package arrived, I realised that this was not a book that went through the process of peer-reviewing and editing, and that was published by a publisher, but that the author had printed and distributed it herself. Also, the layout was terrible. So what, I thought to myself, I cared about the content. I was looking forward to learn more about street girls, and to be able to refer to a new piece of (semi-academic) literature.
All names have been changed as to protect the identities of the research participants.
Samira (16) spent most years of her life on and off the street. Samira’s sister, Fatima (20), is older than Samira and she has a mental disability. The sisters’ first encounter with the street took place at a very young age, when Samira was still an infant, and when the girls’ parents had already been divorced.
“Mama left me in the street when I was a baby. […] When she left me, she called my father. She told him that he could have me now because he always wanted me. Both my parents wanted me but they didn’t want my sister. So she left us in the street and told him where to find us.”
The original article was published on April 14, 2013, by Daily News Egypt. You can find an excerpt of the article below.
It is easy for us to categorise and label street children. To us, they are ruthless criminals, beggars, the puppets of unknown forces, drug addicts or miserable victims. They all come from the same background, probably a slum. They were either kicked out of their homes or they chose the street as a space of unlimited fun and freedom. But all our categories, all our labels, are highly deficient.