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Tradition and the street : continuities in the development of Maya street working girls and boys in Chiapas, Mexico

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Title:Tradition and the street : continuities in the development of Maya street working girls and boys in Chiapas, Mexico
Authors:Tovote, Katrin
Date Issued:2007
Abstract:Although there has been extensive research on the issue of street and street working children in developing countries over the last 20 years, few studies specifically investigated gender differences. Current literature, as well as international media, regularly reports that girls present the minority among street children and that those street and street working girls perform poorly on the streets, both economically and socially. A preliminary literature review revealed that until now, satisfying explanations and systematic research of this phenomenon are lacking. This is because many of the findings about street (working) girls were derived from single remarks and assumptions made in studies that mainly focused on street boys and therefore cannot be considered as solid sources of information. From these studies, it is widely believed that working on the street presents an interruption from a girl's normal development and female socialization.

The current study systematically investigates the situation of street working children, in San Cristobal de las Casas (SCLC), Southern Mexico, from a culture-sensitive perspective. Based on the idea that every child develops according to the ecocultural niche he or she is growing up in, a culturally sensitive and stepwise, mixed-methods approach was designed. Research on street working children of developing countries demands flexible methods of data collection adjusted to the uncertainty and highly unstable environment of the research field. Therefore, I applied a triangulation of methods and data sources: I started with an archival research and continued with ethnographic observations as well as a census before I conducted 51 semi-structured interviews street working children.

The study revealed that in contrast to other Mexican and international cities the center of SCLC exhibits an almost equal numBer of street working boys and girls (52% and 48%, respectively). Interestingly, more than 93% of the children identified themselves as indigenous. Even more interesting was that, contrary to what is reported in the literature, my resultsĀ· indicate that street child work in the center of SCLC is not an interruption but continuity in the regular development of the girls. Theirs as well as the boys' street work is heavily determined by Maya values about child socialization and development. By following the traditional role of Maya women (producing & selling Maya craftwork) in various aspects of their work, the girls operate in a protective niche, which not only allows them gender-consistent behavior, but also to perform successfully in the streets. Overall, cultural heritage seems to play a much more important role for girls than for boys in the organization and conduct of their street activities. Last but not least, the present research supports the importance of schooling for the present and future developmental perspectives of Maya street working children. However, also here important gender differences could be detected. While regular schooling seems to have great influence on the professional goals of street working boys, this was not correct for street working girls. Their strong adherence to their cultural heritage seems to prevent them seeking developing perspectives outside their current environment. This can affect adversely the girls' development in so far, that it may leave them unprepared for the future of rapid socio-economic change in their local environment caused by general trends of globalization.

This study revealed various implications for future intervention programs in SCLC and elsewhere. In order to be culture- as well as gender-sensitive, overall, programs should perceive the children's culture as a chance more than as a challenge. This includes that they acknowledge that boys and girls face different problems in their working settings. In addition, sustainable solutions can only be established by working on a on a community level and by creating opportunities that not only allow the children to receive schooling, but also assures their family a better economic status.
Description:Thesis (M.A.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 121-127).
xi, 127 leaves, bound 29 cm
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: M.A. - Psychology

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