Through the eyes of young children: experiences of children and families in a rebuilding conflict-affected context : a case study from Sri Lanka
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 09:26 authored by Nanditha Janajeevi Hettitantri
In response to a worldwide increase in armed conflict and the subsequent displacement of millions of families, governments and non-government organisations are expending huge amount of resources on supports and services for populations in conflict-affected contexts. While there is a rich literature about conflict-affected populations, there appear to be a limited number of studies which focus on the lived realities of young children in areas emerging from armed conflict and violence. Research that includes young children’s perspectives is particularly rare. This study argues that the voices of young children and families who are directly affected need to be included in planning and delivery stages of rebuilding and development in conflict-affected contexts. The study researched this issue with a group of young children and their families living in a resettling and rebuilding post-conflict village in Sri Lanka. The research applied Honneth’s theory of recognition to investigate young children’s lived experiences of wellbeing in terms of care, rights and solidarity and matched these with the perspectives of caregivers, community leaders and service providers. The study made use of the Mosaic approach that included drawings, interviews, child-led tours, photography and narratives of young children along with interviews and focus group discussions with relevant adults. It was shown that multiple perspectives co-exist within the relatively small, contained context of the conflict-affected community. The study revealed differences in perspectives between groups of adults and between adults and young children. For example, the cohort of adult service providers cited gaps in parenting practices, community mobilisation, and community cohesion, and the cohort of community leaders identified gaps in external supports. Young children and their caregivers, on the other hand, reported positive aspects about the situation. In particular, young children displayed high levels of connectivity in the form of care and support within their families, and social connectedness and solidarity within the community. However, some discrepancies between children and families from different ethnic groups were noted. The study indicates that despite long-term conflict, displacement and concomitant disruptions in this rebuilding post-conflict context, the elements that support young children’s experiences of connectedness within family and community may have a protective element for children and families. Implications for ensuring the inclusion of multiple voices (including those of young children and their caregivers) in assessments of conflict-affected situations and for enhancing supports that contribute to critical components of ‘recognition’ are discussed.