Children and youth in street situations and their capabilities

Children and youth in street situations and their capabilities


345 Pages


This research uses an Interactionist approach to understand how children and youth in street situations in Nepal and elsewhere negotiate their social identity while confronted with dynamics of domination, labelling and violence. Their capability to survive on the street determines their career, which is also influenced by their capacity to play with the institutional network supposed to help or control them. Presenting a typology of the existing intervention system, this research will shed light on the existing gaps and the effect of conversion « back to the norm », carried out or encouraged by NGOs or public authorities.



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“From strategies of urban survival to careers
within the protection system”
This research uses an Interactionist approach to understand how children
and youth in street situations in Nepal and elsewhere negotiate their AND THEIR CAPABILITIES
social identity while confronted with dynamics of domination, labelling
and violence. Their capability to survive on the street determines their “From strategies of urban survival to careers
career, which is also inuenced by their capacity to play with the within the protection system”institutional network supposed to help or control them.
These life stories will be approached with a deep analysis of:
their inherited identity (e.g., cast, religion, family and community
background); the identity developed by street situations (e.g., survival
group, regular activities, drugs, physical, moral and sexual violence);
and their projected identity (e.g., dreams, expectations, projections).
Presenting a typology of the existing intervention system, this
research will shed light on the existing gaps and the effect of conversion
« back to the norm », carried out or encouraged by NGOs or public
authorities. The current transformation of the Child Protection System will
be analyzed, along with their real or felt impact on marginalized children
and youth. The paradox will be explored between the institutional discourse,
which presents the child as an actor of his life and rights, and the reality
on the ground, where intervention tools integrate little of the individual’s
perspectives and the interactional context surrounding concerned subjects.
Jean-Christophe Ryckmans is a Political Science Doctor (Paris 1-Sorbonne)
directing projects for children and youth in street situations for the last
20 years. In Nepal mainly, but also in Burundi, Congo, Cambodia, India, etc.,
he analyses and intervenes with children, youth at risks and their families.
In 2017, he was appointed “Commander of the Order of the Crown” by the
Belgian King Philippe.
Forewords by KP Sharma Oli, Didier Reynders, Prabat Gurung and Willy Borsus
Cover illustration © CPCS.
ISBN : 978-2-343-19321-2
Éducateurs et Préventions35 €
Jean-Christophe Ryckmans
“From strategies of urban survival to careers within the protection system”Children and youth in street situations
and their capabilities Éducateurs et Préventions
Collection dirigée par Pascal LE REST
Les éducateurs travaillent dans l’ombre et contribuent dans le
quotidien à la résolution de situations complexes, souvent
dramatiques et douloureuses. Ils interviennent dans des
internats pour enfants, pour adolescents et pour adultes, dans
des institutions pour déficients visuels ou auditifs, en direction
des personnes handicapées physiquement ou mentalement.
Dans la rue, ils travaillent, sans mandat et dans le respect de
l’anonymat, à restaurer des liens affectifs, sociaux,
psychologiques. Ils sont missionnés par la justice pour
accompagner des enfants en difficultés ou sont présents en
milieu carcéral pour aider les détenus à la réinsertion sociale et
professionnelle. Tous, avec courage et détermination, luttent à
l’aide d’outils spécifiques, de méthodes et de pratiques de
terrain élaborées pour améliorer les conditions de vie des
usagers et de leurs familles et prévenir des risques de récidive,
d’inadaptation, de désaffiliation, de rupture scolaire ou
La collection veut donner la parole aux éducateurs pour
mettre en lumière leur finesse d’intervention, les lignes de force
qui sous-tendent l’étayage des préventions et transmettre la
mémoire des pratiques.
Dernières parutions
Jean-Christophe RYCKMANS, La protection des enfants en
situations de rue, Désinstitutionnalisation, confusion et
transformation, 2019. ANS Népal : enfants et jeunes en
situations de rue, Réalités rurales et survie urbaine, 2019.
Jean-Christophe RYCKMANS, L’enfant en situations de rue,
Entre résistance, rupture et résilience, 2019.
Jonathan LOULI, Le travail social face à l’incertain. La
prévention spécialisée en quête de sens, 2019.
Pascal LE REST, Mais qui veut la mort de la prévention
spécialisée ?, Des premiers pas aux derniers jours, 2019. Jean-Christophe Ryckmans
“From strategies of urban survival
to careers within the protection system”
Forewords by KP Sharma Oli, Didier Reynders,
Prabat Gurung and Willy Borsus By the same author

RYCKMANS Jean-Christophe & THAPA Krishna (2008). The Abuse of
Street Children in Kathmandu. Kathmandu: CPCS-VOC.

RYCKMANS Jean-Christophe (2007). The Street Children of Kathmandu.
Kathmandu: CPCS.

RYCKMANS Jean-Christophe (2009). A Study of Children’s Homes in
Nepal. Kathmandu : CPCS- ACR-CCWB.
RYCKMANS Jean-Christophe (2007). L’espoir au bout de la rue.
Bruxelles: Memogrames.
RYCKMANS Jean-Christophe (2012). The Street Children of Nepal :
Anthropo-sociological study of Social, Cultural and Communication
Practises. Kathmandu: CPCS.

RYCKMANS Jean-Christophe (2019). La Protection des Enfants en
Situations de rue. Désinstitutionalisation, confusion et transformation.
Paris: L’Harmattan.

RYCKMANS Jean-Christophe (2019). Népal : Enfants et jeunes en
situations de rue. Réalités rurales et survie urbaine. Paris :L’Harmattan.
RYCKMANS Jean-Christophe (2019). L’enfant en situations de rue. Entre
résistance, rupture et résilience. Paris : L’Harmattan

© L’Harmattan, 2020
5-7, rue de l’École-Polytechnique ; 75005 Paris
ISBN : 978-2-343-19321-2
EAN : 9782343193212
................................................................................................................................................ 11
SENIOR CITIZEN (NEPAL) .............................................................................................. 13
(BELGIUM) .......................................................................................................................... 15
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................. 17
INTRODUCE AN ORIGINAL TYPOLOGY .................................................................... 43
IN NEPAL (MICRO-SOCIAL AND IDENTITY PERSPECTIVES) ............................ 101
STREET SITUATIONS ..................................................................................................... 177
EFFECTS SUPPORTED BY NGOS ................................................................................ 259
GENERAL CONCLUSIONS ............................................................................................ 297
CONTRIBUTION FROM PROFESSOR DANIEL STOECKLIN ................................ 311
RIGHTS OF THE CHILD - BELGIUM) ......................................................................... 315
NETWORK OF STREET WO RKERS) ........................................................................... 3 2 1
METHODOLOGY AND CRITICISM OF SOURCES ................................................... 323
BIBLIOGRAPHY .............................................................................................................. 333
TABLE OF CONTENTS ................................................................................................... 337

1 2In memory of Professor Riccardo Lucchini and Nick Simons

Photograph taken near the temple of Pashupatinath in April 2015, soon after
the earthquake. The baby in arms is the daughter of a street couple. The two
boys are looking after the baby while the parents are busy. This photograph,
taken in a disaster situation after the earthquake, shows the resilience and
cheerfulness of children in difficult situations. The two boys are plastic
collectors at night and during the day they beg in the Pashupati temple. This
book aims to contribute making their rights a reality. (using the standards set
out in the General Comment N°21 on Children in street situations) © CPCS

1 Professor Riccardo Lucchini passed away on 28 November 2019. Combining
scientific rigour with the passion of a person who actively served children through
numerous foundations, he and his work are and will remain an inexhaustible source
of inspiration and motivation. We humbly hope that this book, inspired by his
interactionist perspective, will shed light on some of the structural factors that violate
the dignity of too many children.
2 Son of James and Maryline Simons, Nick was fond of Nepal and supported the
author’s initiatives for children in street situations. He left our world too early in 2003
and a foundation carrying his dreams has been established.
8 Foreword by KP Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal

The policies and programs of the Government of Nepal highly prioritize
the protection and care of the helpless, unattended, infected and homeless
In line with this, the government is putting a constant effort through the
Ministry of Women, Children and Senior citizen (MOWCSC) and National
Children Rights Council to make life of children safe by eliminating all kind
of threats to them.
I am happy to know that INGO like Child Protection Centers and Services
3(CPCS) International is committed to compliment the Government initiative
of Street Children Free Mission. This is a matter of appreciation.
I extend my thanks to CPCS and hope that this book will shed light on the
situation of children and youths in street, and identify their capabilities so that
the publication will be a reference material for the concerned stakeholders to
work out ways to build capacity of the children and youth in street situations
and provide them with employment opportunities to make them capable
citizens of the country.

Prime Minister of Nepal

3 CPCS International is the belgian INGO founded and directed by Dr.
JeanChristophe Ryckmans, the author of this book. CPCS has been involve with children,
youth and families in street situations since 2002.
Far from misery and sadness on the street, the aim is to shed light on the
reality, between freedom and suffering and between destitution and capability.

The purpose of this research and of its author’s work since 2002 is to serve
and recognise the tremendous capabilities of children and youth in street
situations while considering them as rights-holders. © CPCS.
10 Foreword by Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium

This book is based on the doctoral thesis of Jean-Christophe Ryckmans,
which was recently defended at the University of Paris 1 - Panthéon -
Sorbonne. I first met Dr. Ryckmans when I had the privilege of writing a
preface for his book entitled “Les enfants des rues au Népal” (The street
children of Nepal), which was published in 2012. I personally visited
Kathmandu during one of my first trips as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I must
congratulate Dr. Ryckmans on the considerable achievement of combining
this academic achievement with his work among the street children
themselves. This book is a valuable addition to the academic literature on
street children, or as they should be called, children in the street. It sets out
pathways towards improvements in policy in this area.
In this work it is the child, as a person, who takes centre stage. The
International Convention on the Rights of the Child has been a priority in
Belgium for many years, and it confers a number of rights on children.
JeanChristophe Ryckmans describes and views each child as an independent actor
in charge of his own destiny.He recommends that we should examine the
underlying causes that result in children living on the streets. Once we have
grasped this reality we can then work in the child’s best interests. It seems that
budgetary restraints and institutional dynamics often represent barriers to
doing this.
Belgium and Nepal are strengthening their diplomatic ties, for example
through bilateral visits and consultations. The presence of Belgians in Nepal
further adds to the significance and importance of those links. CPCS, the
Belgian NGO created by Dr Ryckmans, has been working in Nepal since
2002. It is also well known within the civil society in Belgium.
Child protection is a priority for all of us. I would like to thank Dr.
Ryckmans for his work, which has created opportunities to improve our
awareness of this situation and our understanding of the need to protect our
children and safeguard their dignity.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of
Providing support in a remote rural district. Rural poverty, vulnerability and
difficult family relationships are factors that drive children onto the street ©

Child with his dog in the Thamel district. The street is an essential element of
his identity and his daily life. (June 2020) © CPCS

12 Foreword by Prabat Gurung, Minister of Women, Children and
Senior Citizen (Nepal)

Child Right Protection is the priority area of the Government of Nepal.
Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizen has initiated different
campaigns for Child Protection, since this is one of the four pillars of the child
rights. Nepal government initiated a Street Children Free Mission and takes,
their guardianship in this mission. Nepal Government takes together the civil
society, media, NGO’s and INGO’s.
I am happy to know a research-based book on “Children and Youth in Street
Situations in Nepal and their capabilities” will be published and hope that the
research findings could be a reference material for us and to other stakeholders
working in the field of child rights protection.
I hope that this book will help every stakeholder to understand the complex
sociology of street children and youth, take out such miserable situation and
find the decent living for them by strengthening their capabilities.

Minister of Women, Children and Senior Citizen (Nepal)


Once on the street, Santosh accepted the idea that he was a “Street child” and
eventually became a beggar. “It's the easiest way, I put myself on the floor in
dirty clothes and ask for money... I'm just a kathe, right? November 2017, near
Pashupati © CPCS

The General comment 21 require governments to ensure access to quality
short-and long-terme alternative care measures or child centered family
reunification where appropriate. © CPCS
14 Foreword by Willy Borsus, Vice-President of Wallonia (Belgium)

A long way from Belgium and our beloved Wallonia, almost 7000
kilometres away, children are living in everyday situations that are very
different from those we see at home. These conditions are often very difficult
and they demand medical, social and educational intervention.
It was in Nepal that Jean-Christophe Ryckmans decided to take a
wellinformed look at ways of helping the young people living on the streets in that
country, which is ringed by the Himalayas, Tibet and India. He has engaged
in many different forms of effective, respectful and inclusive action there. The
testimonies that have been gathered in the course of his analytical work are
poignant. They attest to a reality that shocks us because it makes us aware of
the favourable and privileged context of the world in which we live, as citizens
of Europe, as Belgians and as people living in Wallonia.
Like everyone, I already knew a little about Nepal; Kathmandu, Buddhism
and the wonderful mountain landscapes in that part of the world. Beyond this
image, the backdrop that has been uncovered by Jean-Christophe is very
different, it could be overwhelming and it inevitably raises questions. His
analysis incorporates some profound reflections on Nepalese politics and the
institutionalisation of children, fed by both constructive criticism and an
astounding degree of human understanding.
The way children are confronted at a very young age with poverty,
violence, drugs and disease as set out in this narrative represents a disaster,
and it does raise questions that we must answer.
To conclude, I feel that these words from the sayings of Buddha are
“There are more tears shed on earth than there is water in the

Vice-President of Wallonia (Belgium), Minister for the Economy, Foreign
Trade, Research and Innovation, Digital Affairs, Agriculture and Town and
Country Planning.

There are street situations in suburban areas too. This is true in Nepal and in
many other countries. Photograph taken in Phnom Penh (October 2017) ©

A person who has rights but is living on the street, in this case in Kinshasa,
moving between periods of vagrancy and brief periods of stability living in
an NGO (January 2018) © CPCS

16 Acknowledgements

I wish to thank all my contacts in Nepal and elsewhere, journalists,
politicians, diplomats, development workers, co-workers, professors and
others for their encouragement, advice and guidance. They have helped me to
make progress and avoid some of the pitfalls or short-cuts that could have led
me in the wrong direction.

I want to express my gratitude and respect to all the social workers, street
workers and psychologists working for numerous organisations who fight
every day to ensure that children enjoy at least a minimum of rights and access
to rehabilitation and socialisation programmes. A special thanks to the Street
4 5Children Consortium , Child Safe Network and the International Network of
6Street Workers , their will to join hands for the best interest of our
beneficiaries, the facilities provided by their network is a promising help.

Obviously, I am grateful to the children and young people in street
situations. This book is the result of relationships based on respect and trust
that were built up with these children over many years. In the fifteen years I
have worked with them, they have given me and taught me so much. Those
children, their presence, their reflections, their life stories and their testimonies
have opened up and deepened my research through simple, real and concrete

I have had to question theoretical approaches that were too far removed
from their daily experience. I have been able to give the street a voice,
integrate the stories found there and give the main part of this work more
reality and a greater impact, which I hope will lead to its going beyond the
shelves of university libraries to serve people who are interested in the street
and the children who live there.

I am also very grateful to all the scientific and social services professionals,
both in Nepal and internationally, who have shared their vision and reflection
with me, from whom I have drawn inspiration and with whom I have
compared theories.

17 I absolutely must mention Daniel Stoecklin and Riccardo Lucchini, whose
approach to childhood in street situations still guides generations of
researchers and will continue to do so, not because they have answered all the
questions, but because they have raised the vital issues that make it possible
to view these children in new ways.
In Nepal, I must thank Bijesh Shrestha, Aita Raj Limbu, Ingrid Bracke,
Badri Acharya, Bikash Rawal, Himmat Maskey, Anna Vermeulen, Nawaraj
Pokharel, Arjun Mohan Bhattarai, Ekata Pradhan, Jean-François Meyer,
Padam Addhikari, Ranju Shrestha, Tek Paudel, Rajendra Rokka and all the
members of the teams at CPCS, ORCHID, CPCR, CRPC, etc. for their
valuable support.
And a very special wink and all my love go to my two children, Lila and
Emmanuel Ryckmans, who experienced the process and adventure of writing
this research every day and have shared a life of travel and discovery.
My sincere thanks also to the following individuals and organisations for
their involvement, advice or support: Aafje de Wacker, (the) American
Himalayan Foundation, Anne Petry, Ariane Angenot, Benoit, Kristel and
Hugo Laval, Benoit Lutgen, Brihaspati Shrestha, Charlie Ryckmans, Bruce
Moore, Camilla Corona, Caritas, Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), Christophe
Etien, Claudette Horge, CPCS Belgium, CPCS France and CPCSTAN, De
Brug, Dominic Verhoeven, Dynamo International, Ecpat-Luxembourg, Esthel
Davidsen, Fabienne Godin, Friends International, Gauri Pradhan, Geneviève
Lefèvre, Jeremy Southon, Jo Sherpa, Kristel, Benoit and Hugo Laval, La
Chaîne de l'espoir, Kids in need - Nepal, the municipality of Somme-Leuze
(Belgium), the Fondation Vieujant, Laurent Puissant Baeyens, Les amis de
Sœur Emmanuelle, the French Embassy in Nepal, the INDSE school in
Bastogne, the Rotary Clubs of Durbuy, Honolulu, Brussels, Madav Pradhan,
Marc Nuytemans, Martine Burette, Mathieu Groen, Mathilde Dufranc,
Médecins du Monde (Belgium), Michael Mehan, Michael Ryckmans, Michel
Debrouwer, Michel Verhulst, Monsignor Gryson, Olivier, Laetitia, Romane
et Gabriel Lejeune, Pierre Verbeeren, Philippe Deharre, PPOT (asbl),
Rajendra Rokka, Raymond Ryckmans, Robert de Mûelenaere, Romane
Lejeune, Romain Verbeeren (and family), Sébastien Marot, Stéphanie
Suhowatsky, Sylvie Casiulis, Sylvie Govaerts, the Simons Foundation, the
Simons Family (Marilyn, Jim and Audrey), (the) Social Welfare Council
(Nepal), Université Catholique de Louvain, (Catholic University of Louvain),
Vanessa De Roeck, the Van Dijk family, Child Life (Kinderleven), Vincent
Perrotte, Vincent Ryckmans, Virginie Corteval, and others.

18 My special thanks go to Mr Didier Reynders, Belgian Deputy Prime
Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Willy Borsus,
MinisterPresident of the Walloon Region and Mrs Martine Jonet de bassompierre
(Founder of Futur21) for their unfailing support over many years.

This research obviously could never have been carried out without
academic supervision from its director, Patrick Bruneteaux (researcher in
political sociology at the CNRS and member of the European Centre for
Sociology and Political Science (CESSP-CRPS, CNRS/Paris)) nor without the
support of the entire teaching and administrative team at the Paris 1 doctoral
school (Sorbonne). I would like to thank you sincerely for allowing me to
combine my academic research with my daily work alongside these children
and young people.

Despite my particular perspective and my strong and emotional
involvement with the subject of this study, Patrick Bruneteaux had no
hesitation in trusting me and understood that behind the emotion and heart
there was a desire and even a need for a true scientific and academic analysis
of the subject. Patrick, at every turn you have been there to support me and
advise me on what to read, which paths to pursue, and which angles I had
missed. It has been an honour and pleasure to make this journey together.
Thank you!

The extensive scientific support, advice, review work and expertise
provided by Daniel Stoecklin (Professor, Interfaculty Centre for the Rights of
the Child, University of Geneva - Switzerland), Annie Fontaine (Associate
Professor, Director of Practical Training, School of Social Work and
Criminology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Université Laval - Canada), Monic
Polquin (Teacher, Special Education Techniques, responsible for guiding
street and outreach work at Cégep de Sainte-Foy (Canada), Charlotte Guénard
(Doctor of economic demography at Institut d'Études politiques de Paris and
lecturer in economics at the University of Paris 1), François Morillon
(President of Dynamo-France) and Thierry Coosemans (Doctor of Political
Science at the Université Libre de Bruxelles) also deserve to be mentioned.

This book is dedicated to all children and young people who have not
survived their sufferings on the street. Their memory is present in this book
and in the hearts of all those who have been involved in its creation. Deepok,
Ganga, Ram, Dinesh, Rajesh, and so many other friends; what you could have
been and become will always be in my heart and this book is also a tribute to
your destiny. Be at peace and find happiness at last.

19 Finally, I owe my thanks to the Nepalese people. I have lived there almost
all my adult life and although I cannot be idealistic about a society that is too
unequal and fragmented, I have received and learned so much from all
Nepalese people... Long live the land of high mountains, of Buddha and of so
many beautiful people...

Child beggars in street situations of Indian or Madhesi origin, photograph
taken in front of the royal palace. Type of photograph often used by NGOs for
fundraising. It seems to show extreme abandonment and social indifference,
but it masks the resourcefulness and ingenuity of these children and their
apparent decision to stay where they are. The “passive” aspect of a child
suffering from their environment also comes to an end whenever a red light
stops traffic; they get up very quickly and start knocking on the windows of
the most luxurious cars. It is noteworthy that these children appear to be used
and exploited by organised groups, often with the involvement of their parents.

20 Introduction : Approach to the scientific field underlying our
analysis of Nepalese children in street situations

Interaction between the child actor and the social system that surrounds

As I focus on vulnerable children in Nepal, I will follow the path outlined
by Daniel Stoecklin (2000, 2006, 2007, 2008) on children in street situations
in China and South America and Riccardo Lucchini (1993, 1996) in Central
and South America.

Daniel Stoecklin briefly worked for various NGOs (Caritas-Switzerland,
Terre des Hommes) and is Associate Professor at the University of Geneva's
Faculty of Social Sciences (Department of Sociology, Institute of Sociological
Research). He also works at the Interfaculty Centre for the Rights of the Child
(CIDE). He proposes a sociology of the child actor and sets out how:

As a person with rights, the child plays a part in transforming his
formal freedoms (the rights of the child) into real freedom
(capability). To shed light on the individual and social factors
involved in this transformation, he developed a heuristic and
7methodological model known as the “actor system” .

This approach is described by Stoecklin (2011, p. 160) as a model tool
inspired by a systemic theory that treats “the actor as an individual regulating
a system of action.”

Using the actor's system, with its five dimensions - activities, relationships,
values, self-image and motivations - it becomes possible to describe the
dynamics of the actor from these different points of view.
I will keep these five dimensions in mind when constructing my analysis;
their influence will even extend to the innovative typologies that I will put
forward to discuss children and the street in Nepal (typology of children in
street situations, typology of social and institutional representations of “street
children”, typology of institutional violence, typology of intervention
practices and mechanisms, typology of social representations of the
intervention, typology of observed departures from the street). Through a
contextualised analysis, the idea is to understand how a child in street
situations in Nepal experiences and influences the social system in which
he/she is immersed.

21 The approach to children in street situations in Nepal as agents and
consideration of their capabilities is innovative and necessary in view of the
context of domination and resistance that forms the environment in which the
child or young person exists. Stoecklin himself drew inspiration from
Lucchini's work on the sociology of survival among street children. Lucchini
was Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences
of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland (in 1997, he is now Professor
Emeritus). Since 1990, he has been working to understand the abilities of
children who have chosen the street as a place to live:

Riccardo Lucchini studied practices of inhaled agent use among
street children in Brazil. He quickly noticed that this population did
not correspond to the image of these young people that was portrayed
in the media and some literature. They were not simply objects of
repression and violence, but had significant abilities and a capacity for
reflection. The Swiss sociologist therefore admitted that he was
surprised by the diversity of the individual situations and the
psychosociological heterogeneity of this unknown population, despite
extensive media coverage of this phenomenon. He therefore
undertook comparative research between the cities of Rio de Janeiro,
Montevideo and Mexico City and conducted exploratory interviews
with street children in Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru and Argentina.
(Parazelli & Poirier, 2000, pp. 5-6)

Lucchini and then Stoecklin highlighted the importance of an interactionist
reading of the reality of children and young people in street situations. Their
analysis seeks to make it possible to see the child as a social actor “who plays
a part in the synthesis of traditional and opposing views advocating the
domination of either the individual actor or of social structures.” (Rojot,
undated, p. 70)

Using Giddens and his theory of structuring (1979, 1984), Stoecklin
proposed to understand the child in street situations as a subject-actor who is
amenable to change and has the power to act and influence reality.

Actors live in the world that is living in them. They are
constructors of the social systems, which in turn inform their
representations. (Stoecklin 2018, p. 566).

Social systems and actors are bound together by structures which
‘can be identified as sets or matrices of rule-resource properties…
recursively implicated in the reproduction of social systems’
(Giddens, 1979: 64). Structure is both constraining and habilitating.
(Stoecklin, 2017, p. 830).
22 In the cultural, social and institutional context of Nepal, my research aims
to capture both the subjectivity of the child actor and the pressure brought to
bear by the norm to define and categorise any individual who deviates from
it. The central and also the pivotal point of this book is the understanding of
how the experience of life among children in street situations in Nepal is both
structured by social systems, but also structures them, where structure is
defined understood in the sense used by Giddens (1979) as a set of rules and
resources organised recursively, outside time and space. It only exists when it
is actualised by actors, and social systems are a set of social practices that are
reproduced time after time. The child in street situations and the organisation
claiming to help him are therefore actors who are empowered by and
themselves empower the social practices that form the basis of the Nepalese
social system(s).

Lucchini and Stoecklin's theses have gone before me in moving beyond an
approach in which marginality is produced in a way that is either purely
individualistic (everything depending on the actor) or purely deterministic
(everything depends on social constraints/practices). I will highlight the need
to understand the child's ability to cope in street situations, while
acknowledging the forms of stigma that play a part in shaping his life. I will
nevertheless be careful with this concept of child actor, which carries the risk
of becoming a prism that in turn introduces new distortions, by recognising
that even in the practices of my own NGO, CPCS:

The child actor has become a slogan even in interventions whose
reasoning uses terms like “target populations”, according to a
deterministic logic with only marginal integration of the perspectives
of the “participants” themselves. (Stoecklin, 2011, p. 155)

In other words, Stoecklin, like Lucchini, had anticipated the risk that
the concept of the child actor is gradually becoming the “conformist
institutional narrative”:

That is, a narrative that presents a stereotypical view of children
for institutional purposes. It seems to me that the concept of a child
actor is becoming a slogan in contexts where psychological and
sociological perspectives have increasingly been integrated into
institutional narratives. (Stoecklin, 2009, p. 60)

I will seek to avoid this trap by ensuring that the meaning expressed, felt
or captured among children, young people and young adults who have finally
moved on from being “children in street situations” is taken into account (see
23 I will also show how the institutional narrative in Nepal helps to shape their
marginality by organising the way it is perceived by the public and handled
by politicians. The structural constraints of the institutional intervention are a
barrier to the effective integration of the concept of a child actor. I will come
to this in the section on institutions, also including the role of donors,
competition between NGOs, the complex dialogue between authorities and
intervening parties, methodological narratives, etc.

It is... very interesting to use one's own practice of intervention as
revealing a gap between the sociological concepts of a social actor and
the institutional narrative which, very broadly, is replacing the image
of the passive victim with that of the active and competent child.
(Stoecklin, 2009, p. 60)

A young man poses in front of a movie poster, with the English words: “Fully
Aggressive Criminal Minded”; the t-shirt bears the sign OM, a sign of peace.
The paradox is revealing. © CPCS

A Short note about gender-neutral way of writing: Almost all the theoretical
discussion in this research concerns male children or youth (more than 95% of the
children in street situations in Nepal are boys), even though one or two of the actual
examples are girls. Therefore, "he" is used to refer to both genders.
24 The child in street situations, the child-street system and the recognition of
capability in the face of categorisation.

Stoecklin proposes and promotes the term “children in street situations” to
highlight this understanding of the child actor, but without ignoring the
significance of the existing environmental factors and social systems:

This expression makes it possible to emphasise that it is not the
child who is the problem, but that the situations in which he finds
himself on the street are problematic. It also makes it possible to avoid
the stigma associated with the phrase “street child” and highlights the
fact that there are many different responsibilities involved in this type
of situation, i.e. political, economic, structural and family. It is
important to realise that a child who has chosen to go to the street is
8generally escaping from worse conditions elsewhere

I will explain in detail in the analysis why I use the phrase child/young
person in street situations. To briefly introduce this position, I would say that
in Nepal, like elsewhere, compounds comprising the word “street” and another
noun are markers of political, technocratic, journalistic and also sociological
classification. The term “street child” reduces the child to the status of an
object of the limitations of the system. This functionalist tendency is still
prevalent in the analysis of many researchers, which seems to me to be too
culturalist and reductive since it limits the status of all children/young people
to being nothing more than products of the surrounding structure who suffer
its effects in a passive and dominated way. These researchers often have a
mandate to promote or defend the current or proposed projects of their
institution, and their analysis is delivered in the form of reports aiming more
to serve as a justification for existing or future interventions than to truly
understand the reality of the situation.

This is also linked to the financial sources of research in this field
which are, in growing proportion, found outside the academic
institutions and requirements » (Stoecklin, 2018, p. 552)

New categories or sub-groups and new labels are regularly invented to
support or suggest specific interventions or new programmes. Bruneteaux and
Lanzarini (1999), on the new faces of the sub-proletariat in France, critically

8 Interview at - 28 November 2008. Retrieved fromême-dans-la-rue--les-enfants-ont-des-droits/7049380
25 This aberrant and, it seems, inexhaustible multiplicity of
administrative and journalistic categories. “Those who are referred to
collectively and falsely as “excluded”, “homeless”, “poorly housed”,
9“drug addicts” or “suburban youth.”

For our purposes, there are a large number of institutional and/or social
categories: “street children”, “children at risk”, “children in the street”,
“working children”, “child slaves (new form of slavery)”, “children connected
to the street”, etc. These labels create a short-hand foothold for the many
services claiming:

“... to provide the minimum required for life for sub-proletarians
on the street. The words “emergency”, “humanitarian” and “shelter”
create a fully-formed institutionalised vulnerability, in other words a
peripheral form of inclusion that brings those who do not belong into
a new, endless and insecure revolving door between emergency
services... So far there have been few detailed studies of the methods
used by these centres, and those in existence are far from
comprehensive.” (Bruneteaux 2006, p. 105)

I will analyse these systems and their errors, focusing on the child's
capacity for participation in the proposed intervention systems and his
development within them. In an interactionist approach, Lucchini (1996),
inspired among other things by Becker's concept of a “career”, will create a
different way of approaching childhood in deviance. This child-street system
(CSS), which at the time was a new approach to the street and the children
who live there, offers a useful way of understanding the situation as
experienced by children in Nepal.

This model comprises several dimensions through which the
experiences of children in street situations can be understood: space,
time, socialisation, sociability, dynamics, identity, motivation and
gender. (Stoecklin, 2009, p. 63)

The CSS is a sociological reading grid that makes it possible to understand
street situations as they are experienced by children.

The name “Child-Street System” (CSS) emerged from its function:
to be aware of the “system” comprising the elements that connect the
child to the street world. This system is not a reality external to the
child, determining the child's way of life on the street as a “structure”
or “organisation”.

26 It is a system of relationships (which will be specified through the
individual interviews) between the elements that make up the child's
experience of the street.” (Zermatten & Stoecklin, 2009, p. 63)

Daniel Stoecklin took over the CSS and developed it after 1997, applying
it to different contexts and finally developing a heuristic model that clarifies
the dynamics of the social actor already introduced above:

We used the “child-street system” (CSS) (Lucchini, 1993, 1996)
as an analytical grid for our own doctoral thesis (Stoecklin, 2000), and
then as a listening tool to guide intervention in projects for children in
street situations managed by several NGOs in a large number of
countries. Using this reading grid during the intervention made it
possible to highlight the need for greater reflective appropriation of
the experience by the young people themselves. (Stoecklin, 2000, p.

Inspired by the Actor System (Stoecklin, 2000) and the CSS (Lucchini,
1993, 1996) and considering these as heuristic tools (toolboxes that help to
clarify reality and especially the meaning that children give it), I will be able
to explore how Nepalese children react to or interact with a society that is
structured by ethnicity and caste, in the face of traditional practices that are
sometimes harmful, as well as a set of combined and potentially marginalising
factors: rural and family poverty, various forms of violence, the temptations
and traditions of migration, the consequences of civil wars or recent natural
disasters (earthquakes/floods), etc.

This approach, which focuses on what children do with the constraints in
which they find themselves, has so far not been used enough to explore and
explain the reality of children and adolescents in street situations in Nepal.

For Stoecklin (2000, p. 45), “the street situation is defined by the
limitations affecting the child in the street, but also by what the child himself
does with these as a social actor.”

Following the example of this study on children in street situations in
China, which was prepared and implemented over a period of six years
(19921998), as part of a doctorate in sociology at the University of Fribourg in
Switzerland, my research is intended to be: “a first sociological approach to
10this phenomenon. “The proposed analysis does not purport (...) to do
anything more than simply identify some explanatory hypotheses.”
(Stoecklin, 2000, p. 22)

27 Between domination and resistance, the quest for dignity and the skills of the

This research aims to understand how these young people and children do
or do not undergo domination and how they resist or do not resist the models
and lives offered to them/imposed on them in the rural Nepalese context and
then in the street. Stoecklin (2000) tells us:

There are still very few books addressing this issue by ensuring
that the meaning that children themselves give to their situation
remains at the centre of their analysis. That is precisely the aim of this
research, which will explore what children say about themselves, their
situation and their choices. (p. 320)

I will look not only for symbolic aspects of resistance, but above all at how
it occurs in practice in everyday life, in lifestyles and in ways of circumventing
problems (including domination) that are experienced in the street or in
organisations providing assistance (NGOs).

To do this, I have focused on understanding the “hidden text” of children
in street situations and their own understanding of their daily lives.

Interactionist analyses applied to the street situation (Stoecklin
2000, 2006, 2007, 2008) shed light on the meaning that actors give to
their own paths, which is an essential element for intervention.
(Stoecklin, 2000, p. 153)

Like Stoecklin, I will try in this book to reconcile the usefulness of
deterministic and comprehensive approaches and therefore of related
analytical or interpretative approaches.

Interpretation and classification cannot be seen in opposition:
rather, it is important to find a balance between these two approaches.
Reality is neither purely deterministic nor a purely personal construct.
Situations are subjective reconstructions of objective facts: they are
shaped in interactions. That is how we can say that every situation is
“socially constructed”. The aim is therefore to integrate the child as a
participant in the definition of the situation as it is experienced.
(Stoecklin, 2009, p. 56)

The central question of domination (internal and external, i.e. both within
groups of children in street situations and by external agents, whether
institutional or otherwise) experienced by the child is, in my opinion, not at
all contradictory to the capability that is highlighted;
28 this is because the consequences of undue stigmatisation by (or supporting)
domination depend partly on the degree of submission by the individual (in
this case the children) and on whether or not he/she accepts the inevitability
of his/her status.

To better understand some of the processes of domination that occur in
Nepal in rural, urban and peri-urban contexts, I will use some of Philippe
Bourgois' theories (2001, 2005, 2009). In his long-term survey of crack users
in New York's El Barrio district, he questions the competence of the
dominated and of the street culture in relation to the processes of social
marginalisation that affect working-class neighbourhoods. He defines “street
culture” as a “culture of resistance” by ensuring that domination is rejected
and supporting a “personal quest for dignity” (p. 37).

Properly speaking, the real subject of the book is not crack or even
drugs. Drug addiction in these poor neighbourhoods is in fact only a
symptom - and a vivid symbol - of the deeper dynamics of social
marginalisation and exclusion (Kokoreff & Bourgois, 2002, p. 30).

In approaching this subject, it is therefore necessary to understand the
habits and culture of the street in Nepal and the ways in which children (not
adults as studied by Bourgois) experience it, conceive it and invent it. For
example, I will approach the use of glue and other narcotics in a microsocial
analysis but integrating drug use amongst the mechanisms used to resist the
experience of everyday life.

Since I do not wish to become involved in the disputes between different
schools in sociology, I will quickly move from Bourgois (2001, 2005, 2009)
to Scott (2009) whose insights into the competence of the dominated, which
have been used or adapted by Patrick Bruneteaux (1999, 2010), Olivier
Schwartz (1990), Lepoutre (1997), Laurent Ott (2007) and others, help to
clarify the reality and the ways in which the Nepalese child actor enacts and
handles relationships of domination. This domination is supported and
reinforced by NGOs and also by other institutional actors, the police, social
services (National and Local Child Rights Board) or non-institutional services
(groups of children and other actors present in the street (young people,
dealers, mafias).

Our young rural proletarians in Nepal, suddenly confronted with the reality
of large cities, deprived of (or saved from) social control by the village
community, a long way from the (relative) cocoon of their family, will also
develop the responses including “agnostic generosity” or “physical violence”
mentioned by Schwartz (1990) and Lepoutre (1997).

29 To understand the reality of this life in the street, I will have to research
what James Scott (2009) called the “hidden text” of the dominated (and also
of the dominant).

Analysis of the hidden texts of both powerful and subordinated
players gives us access to a kind of social science that highlights
contradictions and possibilities and can see far beneath the calm
surface often presented by public accommodations to the existing
distribution of power, wealth and status. (p. 29)

My own position within the NGO world and good connections with “senior
people” in Nepal provide me with easy access to the hidden text of the
dominant. For example, I know precisely the tortuous routes used by many
NGOs to access specific sources of funding. The real needs of the supposed
beneficiaries are often obscured by stereotypical responses that are designed
to comply with the terms of reference of the calls for offers that are being
targeted. The hidden text of the dominated, on the other hand, is more difficult
to access, but it is absolutely essential to understand it:

Any dominated group produces, as a result of its condition, a
“hidden text”, which is not visible to the dominant, which represents
a critique of power. The dominant, on the other hand, also develop a
hidden text including practices and underpinnings of their power that
cannot be publicly revealed. Comparing the hidden texts of the weak
and the powerful and comparing these two hidden texts with the
public text of power relationships, makes it possible to approach
resistance to domination in new ways. (Scott, 2009, p. 12)

30 Rural Nepalese realities and the ability to negotiate a social identity

Contrary to the idea of a child suffering their environment, it seems that
the child from the “village prison” who is subject to the tensions experienced
in the rural world, is acting rationally by migrating to the city, to the street.
He/she is reacting to a specific context of domination by wanting to move
towards something else. In this sense, leaving is a choice and an act of
resistance, not the desperate act of a submitted individual. In this regard, I will
use and supplement the analysis of aspects of the situation of Nepalese
children found in the valuable work of Catherine Panter-Brick (2000, 2002),
Todd and Rachel Backer (1996), Gabriele Kölher et al (2009) and in my own
studies and research (Ryckmans, 2007; 2008; 2012.

Panter-Brick (Professor of Anthropology at Yale who has worked for a
long time on childhood in street situations in Nepal) highlighted the usual
pitfall of academic research viewing homelessness “as the most salient risk
factor for poor health”. (Panter-Brick, 2004, p. 83)

Panter-Brick has brought a challenge to the paradigm that assumes that
homeless children are most vulnerable. On the contrary, Panter-Brick (2004)
highlights the ability of these children to negotiate their social
identity(identities) in an insecure context:

Homeless and street children are commonly portrayed in the
academic and welfare literature as a prime category of ‘children at
risk’… A risk discourse is unhelpful where it promotes a stereotype
of vulnerability about children, resulting in further discrimination and
social exclusion; it is most helpful when it focuses attention on ways
to negotiate adverse situations. (p. 83)

Lucchini (2001) also confirms the importance of this “negotiation” in
everyday life: “the child... obeys a cultural logic and has needs for identity,
that favour negotiation in all its forms. The street child is a highly skilled
negotiator!” (p.78)

The work of Panter-Brick and Todd and Rachel Backer (1996, 1998) create
and suggest a global analysis of life in street situations in Nepal in relation to
rural poverty. They encourage viewing the child as having negotiated and
constructed an identity and “self-esteem” in his life in the street, influenced
by the relationships and daily encounters experienced in the context of the

31 For Baker (1998):

As I have demonstrated, boys' evaluations of their street-based
activities and relationships are influenced to a large degree by the
reactions they receive from other people during daily encounters in a
number of city settings. These reactions are not based solely on
aspects of work, rather they allude to certain behaviours that put them
outside the acceptable moral sphere. By seemingly 'choosing' to live
in 'poverty' and outside the family realm, boys are challenging
pervasive ideas about the primacy of the family as a nurturing ground
and the source of an individual's identity. (p 170)

Yet, despite the doors opened by Panter-Brick and Baker, the perspective
generally used to address deviance among Nepalese children focuses on
11juvenile cultures and almost forgets the macrosocial aspects of social class.
If I can succeed in avoiding this bias by approaching the “hidden text” of
children in street situations, this research will contribute aspects that are
essential to understand the young population being studied. Like Bruneteaux
(2016), in his analysis of George (a homeless Parisian), I will therefore search
for the hidden text of the child in street situations by reconstructing his
symbolic world in a system of constraints and resistance (between capability
and submission). I will try to set out objectively the various forms of
“selfrealisation” used by rural sub-proletarians facing life in street situations. The
confrontation between the mechanisms of domination and the way it is
resisted therefore forms the core of my analysis, which will set out the impact
of the carefree attitude which is typical of childhood, the capacity for rupture
and the capacity for resistance in a context of submission. I will also draw
inspiration from the similar approach to this phenomenon in other areas:
notably through the work of Hecht (1998). Hecht's central question in his
study of street children in Brazil was not only about how these children viewed
their own existence on the street, but also how they viewed the services that
were supposed to “save” them.

Hecht subtly turned the tables of conventional analysis, overturning
statistics from UNICEF or other agencies and NGOs which have greatly
overestimated the number of “street children” and focusing on death squads
rather than on “the quiet, private death that is hunger and disease” (p. 146).

11 As noted in the report published by the Institute for the Rights of the Child (IDE) at
the end of its October 2007 seminar, which was attended by many teachers and experts
(including Daniel Stoecklin and Riccardo Lucchini) on vulnerable children (street
children) Prevention, intervention, respect for rights, 2007, p. 60), “It is the visible
and “deviant” behaviours of poor children and their families that are identified, and
much less often the macro-social dynamics that condition them. “
32 Hecht turned the problem around and asked himself “Why are there so few
12children in street situations ?” “There is one social worker for every child
sleeping rough,” he said provocatively. Ultimately the same question may also
arise in Nepal. Why are there so few street children in a country where 500,000
houses were destroyed in the 2015 earthquakes and poverty levels are high?

Starting from the point of view expressed by the child and his own
observations, Hecht initiated an analysis of the way childhood is viewed, the
role of NGOs, and the general context of a society in which it is better to live
on the streets than in the slums. This observation can also be carried over to
Nepal, where life on the street appears to be a rational alternative to the
difficulties experienced in the rural world. Unlike Brazil, street children in
Nepal are not born there and their family homes are often a long way away.
He/she goes out onto the street as a temporary migrant knowing that returning
is also an option if necessary. So, this is a choice in favour of the street, faced
with a rural context that he/she is rejecting or avoiding.

Group of children and young people in street situations in the Pashupatinath
area (photograph taken after the earthquakes in April 2015). How can we
understand these young people and children? How can we understand that
some of them confirm that they have chosen to live on the street? © CPCS

12 He also discloses that in Recife there is about one care-giver for each child sleeping
in the streets, and that these street kids are more likely to be killed by their peers than
by death squads. Repéré à

Plastic collector in Kathmandu, photograph taken in June 2018. This young
person has been attending the CPCS and other organisations for many years.
The obligation to secure his living conditions necessary for his development
was never properly addressed. .- © CPCS