Street life involvement of children is not an unknown phenomenon, neither in ‘Southern’, nor in ‘Northern’ countries (Barker et al., 2014). According to the Consortium for Street Children’s report (2007),worldwide, the number of children and adolescents living on the streets is between 100 and 150 million, and, while it is difficult to obtain figures within a specific country or a city, the numbers appear to be increasing (Altanis & Goddard, 2004; UNICEF, 2006).
It is since the 1980's that the D. R. Congo faces this reality of street children phenomenon, which seems to become increasingly serious (Mulumbwa, 2007), that pushes the social actors to get involved in the search for a solution through different projects (Kasongo, 2010).
Many questions stay without answer and there are very few studies that have specifically examined the role of armed conflicts and war-related experiences (Veale & Donna, 2008). That is why there is a need to study impact of long-lasting and recurrent armed conflicts(including several armed conflicts have been characterized with cruel war strategies that are directly targeted at the civilian population) on street children phenomenon.
Therefore, this study’s overall aim is to gain more insight into the role of armed conflicts and particular war-related experiences in the dynamics and causes of street life involvement of children living in (post-)conflict contexts.
Following research questions will guide the study:
1) Do armed conflicts - related motives and experiences (displacement, parents ’death, child soldiering, parental separation, stigma,…) impact the reasons to become involved and to stay in the street? (study
2) How do transition processes evolve from home to the street? (study 2)
3) What is the parents’ and other caregivers’ view on the involvement of their children in street life in relation to the family context and history? (study 3)
Methodology and studies
The research is executed in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (D R Congo), Ituri Province, a region affected by armed conflicts for several decades (Coghlan et al., 2006), with a devastating ongoing impact that persists today (Dolan, 2010).
To achieve the research aim, it is essential to carry out in-depth studies with street children, those who live days and nights on the street since a certain period (At least one month); including the family context. This project will consist of two different interlinked studies. In a first study, a large-scale study on the role of armed conflict (motives for getting involved/motives to get involved in the street) in the fact that children go to live on the street and stay there and will also concern the trajectories of street children from home to the street. This first study is done by community researchers (young people who were formerly involved in street life in the past but have left since at least one year and are currently members of the community) to collect the data. In-depth interviews with street children are done (n=102; older than 12 years to 18 years of age) on their stories and current experiences of street life, their trajectories, received support, and future perspectives. In a second study, an in-depth study of a smaller group, including parents / caregivers, is done, but different from those of participants in study 1 related to the street children’s family context. They answered to the questions about their views on the involvement of their children in street life in relation to the familial context and history (received support, perspectives on the future of their children) (n=37).