chapter  4
20 Pages

Breaking intergenerational transmissions of poverty: perspectives of street-connected girls in Nairobi


Street-connected girls face risks both on and during their journeys to the street. They not only face discrimination in the mobile spaces they occupy in public space, but have often moved to escape from abuse and neglect in dysfunctional families. Therefore, the success of interventions to improve their well-being is dependent on understanding their vulnerabilities and the risks they face in their mobilities in the street itself, as well as from street to school. Key to this understanding is how they negotiate the spaces they occupy, including the intergenerational and intragenerational power dynamics that permeate their complex everyday lives. The aims of the research were: to generate new knowledge on how to

improve the lives of street-connected girls in Nairobi; and to share best practice on social protection interventions including rehabilitation and reintegration into education. This chapter will address two aspects of the research project ‘Mitaani hadi shuleni’meaning ‘from the street into school’, led by the University of Brighton with international partners. First, the subjective well-being indicators of girls and their mothers (following the work of Moncrieffe 2009 and Sumner et al. 2009), and second, their journeys to the streets and the situation they find themselves in when they get there, including understanding their experiences of mobilities and the spaces they occupy (following, for example, ideas of Porter and Mawdsley 2008 on mobility and Mannion 2010 on participatory space and intergenerational performance). This research has helped to understand the complexity of the girls’ lives on the streets and how interventions could contribute to changing their situation. This fits with Hanson and Nieuwenhuys’ (2013) reconceptualisation of child rights that takes into account children’s complex realities and social justice. The gap between the expression of rights in international agreements to their variable fulfilment at national and local levels was also therefore recognised during the research. Whilst treating marginalised street-connected girls as active agents of change

(for example Ennew 1994), their vulnerability has been further understood in order to inform interventions to improve their lives (as suggested by Mizen and

Ofosu-kusi 2013). Some of the girls who participated in this research are orphans, but others live and work with their street families. The design of the research and analysis therefore utilised concepts of intergenerational cultural transmissions (Mead 1970) and intergenerational transmissions of poverty (Moncrieffe 2009). Relationships between the girls and their parents or guardians, and the harm or abuse they experience, helped to determine what social protection interventions had made a positive difference to their lives. Furthermore, the study also demonstrated how small NGOs can be seen as catalysts for shifts in thinking and practice (Uvin et al. 2000), particularly in linking child protection and social protection systems’ strengthening approaches (see Devereux and Sabates-Wheeler 2011; and Save the Children 2011). The child-centred research was funded by the UN Girls Education Initiative

(UNGEI) and led by the Education Research Centre at the University of Brighton in partnership with a national Kenyan non-governmental organisation, Pendekezo Letu, ChildHope UK and the Overseas Development Institute. Results have informed ongoing interventions made by both Pendekezo Letu, and broader policy implications and sustainability were discussed at a reference group of representatives from national ministries, international donors and non-governmental organisations.