STREET CHILDREN IN NIŠ (SERBIA): THE CASE OF DROP IN CENTRE FOR THE MOST AT RISK ADOLESCENTS (MARA)
Once on the streets, children have difficulty meeting their basic needs such as obtaining food, clothes or shelter. Therefore, they employ a range of survival strategies. Begging, car washing, collecting secondary resources, borrowing money, and dealing drugs are common ways how to provide subsistence. Perhaps the most dangerous survival strategy pertains to exchanging sex services for food or mon More
Once on the streets, children have difficulty meeting their basic needs such as obtaining food, clothes or shelter. Therefore, they employ a range of survival strategies. Begging, car washing, collecting secondary resources, borrowing money, and dealing drugs are common ways how to provide subsistence. Perhaps the most dangerous survival strategy pertains to exchanging sex services for food or money. Drug and alcohol use are common practices among street children.
The main goal of this thesis was to obtain new knowledge about these young people in order to achieve a better understanding of their behaviours in the framework of social marginalization, their coping strategies and their own contributions to social exclusion. To provide better social, health and educational services for street children in Niš a qualitative approach is necessary to understand their survival strategies and their several needs as the persons at risk in certain social contexts.
The main approach was ethnography encompassing participant observation during the fieldwork in Drop in centre in Niš. Following methods were employed: Review of the scientific literature on the issue and analytical reading (about Roma, marginality, street children, adolescents, homeless, risky behaviour, anthropology of childhood, social constructivism…); Review and analysis of existing documents and archive materials: UN/NGO/Government documents, and the documentation on the projects from Drop in centre; Participant observation in the group of MARA; Semi-structured interviews with MARA; An ethnographic diary and ethnographic fieldnotes of fieldwork in the Drop in centre in Niš.
This thesis was focused on the following research questions: What is the relationship between social stereotypes about MARA and MARA’s behaviour? Are the stereotypes affecting MARA’s identities, behaviour and appearance or vice versa? How do MARA act within their several environments? How MARA relate to each other? How “street groups” influence MARA’s risky behaviour? What are interactions within these groups? What are the commonly shared values among the members of the groups? My research will explore more in detail common values in the groups of drug users and sex workers. How MARA understand the risk of drug use and commercial sex? What is the social context of risk perception? Do they have any ideas how to prevent the risk? Did they have any concepts about the risk? And how their concept coincides with the mainstream, project concepts?
Discussing all above research questions, the main expected result refers to obtaining new knowledge in order to find better solution to their problems compared to existing practices and understandings by several actors (the Drop in centre personnel, UN institutions, NGOs, civil services, public, broader society). Therefore, this work will fight against poorly informed images and understandings of adolescent Roma and street children, which are as a rule seen and understood within ideological, commonsensical, racial and stereotypical considerations.
Roma studies have little academic research on at risk adolescent children, especially in the Western Balkans. Medical anthropology that deals with understanding of health and illness has not discussed adolescents at risk in the Western Balkans.
The originality of this study is related to the unique material collected in the ethnography through participant observation and fieldwork with appropriate techniques of data collection with adolescent street children in Niš. The study was carried out on the territory of former Socialist Yugoslavia, in Central Serbia, Niš. No similar studies on structural inequality, marginality and Roma has been conducted in this region.
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