The seesaw dynamic: conceptualising child participation in a disaster prone context : a case study of Cabusao, Philippines
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 01:39 by Yany P. Lopez
In recent times there has been widespread media coverage of disaster news. Reports of flooding, volcanic eruptions and other hazardous events have tended to focus on images of children in vulnerable conditions. Children are portrayed as icons of suffering, in desperate need of external help. But, are children always helpless and passive victims in such fragile contexts? To what extent do children participate in addressing needs and coping within fragile circumstances? This study employs a case study methodology to investigate these issues. The New Social Studies of Childhood provides the framework for examining the experiences of young children as they go about their everyday lived realities in a particular fragile and under-resourced community. The author spent several months documenting the lived experiences of 15 children aged between 6 and 8 years in one community in a typhoon-prone, flood-ridden region of the Philippines. The study used a popular tool (Hart's ladder of participation) to determine how children reflect meaningful and active participation as they carry out household and caretaking duties, and perform income-generating tasks for their families, Play-based activities such as drawing, role playing and community mapping were used to elicit children's ideas and insights of themselves, their families and their physical environments. Interviews, observations and video recordings were also employed to gather information pertinent to the children's day to day experiences. It was found that an extension and enhancement of the 'ladder model' would be useful in order to encompass additional factors and elements which were not included in the original 'ladder' metaphor of analysis. Such factors include child relations, formal/informal activities, the physical environment and the socio-economic & cultural context. The author suggests that a "Seesaw model of participation" is an appropriate analytical tool because it emphasises that the dynamic relationships between children and their peers, and between children and adults are affected (or balanced by) family, community and cultural influences. The author further suggests that the 'seesaw' metaphor is a useful lens through which to assess child participation within fragile context(s). The findings indicate that while children aged between 6 and 8 years are susceptible and vulnerable in fragile contexts, they are also efficacious, capable of selflessly providing support and contributing to the wellbeing of their own households and community. The study validates the notion that child participation is part of the everyday realities, and can, therefore, be utilised as both an asset and resource in providing support and contributing to the wellbeing of the household and community.