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Monthly Archives: December 2013

When street children lie

All names have been changed as to protect the identities of the research participants.

On my first day of research at the shelter for female street children, I met Hala (15), one of the first girls willing to give me an in-depth interview. Although she did not allow me to record our conversation, she talked with me about her life on and off the street for more than two hours. Hala was not shy at all, but rather very outspoken and talkative. It was a great interview, or it would have been, if there had not been this one problem: I felt that Hala was lying. (more…)

Sleeping in the street: “I could stay awake for three days”

All names have been changed as to protect the identities of the research participants.

When I began interviewing female street children about their lives in the street,  I was interested to learn how they spend their days, what sort of violence they might exert or be subjected to, how they make a living and what they are afraid of. My questions addressed their day- and night-time activities in the street. It was only after a few weeks that I became aware that I had not sufficiently focused on the hours during which street children sleep.

Most of us are the most vulnerable when asleep. Our eyes are closed, our ears do not pay much attention to what is going on around us. Being so vulnerable, we need to be safe to go to sleep. This is why, although we use the street on a daily basis and we are not afraid, we would never consider sleeping in it. We resort to a safe place, to our home, where our vulnerability does not subject us to immediate danger. Children who sleep in the street rarely have this choice. (more…)

Redefining my role as a researcher

All names have been changed as to protect the identities of the research participants.

The purpose of my research was to study the living circumstances of female street children in Egypt. I wanted to understand how girls live in the street, what methods they develop to deal with existing societal norms, and how they challenge and shape these norms themselves. In order to find answers to these questions, I interviewed girls in the street and girls who had left the street and who were living in the shelter of an Egyptian street children NGO.

In order to prepare my research, and to prepare myself for it, I had read extensively about the ethical issues of doing academic research with children. With the aid of the literature, as well as my own experiences with street children and people doing research with them, I identified certain rules that I wanted to stick to, and that I shared repeatedly with every girl who became part of my research: “I will never push you to give me information. Don’t tell me anything you don’t want to talk about. You can end our work at any time, and it will be totally okay. There is no right and wrong for me. There are no such things as ‘aib [sinful] or ‘haram [forbidden in Islam] in my understanding. There are no good and bad answers. You are the expert, and I am here to learn from you. Anything you teach me is helpful and I thank you for it.”

(more…)

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