CHILD CARE INSTITUTE
Care Institute (Instituto de Apoio Á
Criança) in Lisbon is a private social welfare institution
established on the 14th March 1983 by a group of people from different
political and professional backgrounds such as doctors, physicians,
judges, teachers, psychologists, lawyers, sociologists, social workers
The IAC is a non profit making organisation with the main purpose to
contribute to full development of children and to defend and to promote
their rights, considering the child under an overall approach as
someone entitled to all rights such as health, education, social
security or leisure time.
Neither intending to replace any existing organizations nor to
duplicate activities carried out by other institutions, IAC aims at
encouraging and spreading the work of those concerned with the pursuit
of new answers to Portuguese children's problems as well as at
undertaking cooperation with similar institutions, at home and abroad.
IAC is a member of the National Platform of Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGO), taking on the role as Children's ombudsman, being
a voice for their needs and trying to help children to live through a
much happier childhood time.
The main aim of IAC is to contribute to the all-round development of
children, through the defence and promotion of children's rights. We
have established an active partnership consisting of departments within
the Ministries of Education, Justice, Health and Social Security,
District Civil Government and the Mayor's Office of Lisbon as well as
the support and sponsorship of several private companies and
individuals promoting social cohesion.
From my professional field work experience with street children as well
as from research I have had the opportunity to undertake studies on the
perception and representation of the urban space with socially
integrated children; I can share with you, the following:
The world, as seen and apprehended by the child, is obviously not a
world shared by the adult, by the simple evidence that a child is not
an adult. On the other hand, an adult cannot see the world as it is
seen by the child either, even if it does try to do it as a child.
Indeed, for JAMES et al.(1998), the world as seen by the child, taking
genders into account, seems to be different, also from what it is
attributed to it by many authors, because the acquirement of the space
notion created by the child is deduced through a process highly
influenced by the social and cultural role played by genders.
It is fundamental to know what children say. Childhood is a part of
society, with a dynamic of its own, one that needs to be studied as the
autonomous social category. Children are human beings who are their own
selves and who, therefore, cannot be seen as will become, persons
(QVOTRUP, 2000). Considering the world we live in at present and its
constant changes, a complex and multifaceted world, we should not in
our view consider one childhood only, one children's world but rather
plural childhoods, social worlds and diverse children's cultures. The
concept of childhood should not become generalized as a closed up and
unarguable social category, because it is dependent upon and is
accordant with life's particular circumstances. Children's past or
future social experiences are dependent upon the context of their
lives, as well as upon the rhythms of their life in the family and
school environments. Therefore, having naturally their own ideas and
opinions about all things, their views about the town are also
dependent on what they are allowed to live, in the town and from it.
Body and movement have an expressive and existential meaning. The child
achieves through mobility "the usage of space, whichever this space may
be" the acknowledgement of Self, of the external world and of others,
as well as moving on into action. These are factors / events / actions,
essential for the child to develop the mental mechanisms for their
ability to live as part of a group, emotional and intimate security,
initiative, self-control, sharing, problem resolution, adventure,
satisfaction, discontentment, fear - that is "so, that it becomes from
a biological individual, a social person, quoting from LABORIT (1971).
The space, the town, their perception and representation, as seen by
the child are the child's own, themselves and therefore must be known
by all those with planning responsibilities.
The town, therefore, helps to organise reality within the individual,
expressing him and recreating him. Nowadays we witness the individual
subordinated to space, and space subordinated to the use given to it.
It is an action with a double movement. It is through modifying it and
managing this space that individuals build upon their own being and
their own creativity. However, this is reciprocated, in so far as the
generalized shape taken by the space is going to be determining for the
individual who inhabits it. From these several interactions and, also
as their consequence, human development takes place in permanent and
non-linear dynamics which carry with them a permanent organisation of
self and, therefore a future.
Today, the town has become an aggregate of towns "the organising of
space, where this becomes an organic body in constant mutation due to
the mobility of human beings and of their institutions, in search of
better living conditions so as to reach their aims and goals in life.
It is also a complex field of power relationships, as it is in the town
that all kinds of racial, social, economic and cultural discrimination
make themselves felt with a greater incidence. For sure those towns
within the town express them all. Therefore, the representation, the
perception and the action built up by the child as well as the ones the
child wishes to build up, within anyone of them, must be taken into
account and considered by those who have town planning
responsibilities, as that mobility becomes to be seen and related to
lifestyles and to social and cultural practices.
Based on these principles "that children have ideas of their own about
things and about their environment" we have given them attention, time
and space so as to listen properly to them and to their sayings. We
interviewed children of both genders, within an age range of nine and
twelve year-olds, attending three schools at primary level from two
Lisbon neighbourhoods and we asked them what, for them is a town.
From written transcriptions of their sayings, I drew the information
which will allow us an attempt at understanding the perceptions and
their representations of the urban space, as experienced and dreamt by
these children. Here, the child is used as an observing unit and as an
Research methods were based on the reality construed by the children,
expressed by them, through writings and drawings, made up from the
perception and the representation of that same reality. The kind of
interpretation made in the study implies some knowledge of a social
life where objectivity is always comparative and mediated.
The child selects, changes and creates environments through personal
experiences and lifestyles; and we all know how these will only develop
if given the opportunities to do so. We know also, how the perception
of a town is shaped by image, by its life experience within that image
and how it is therefore, a temporary dated phenomenon. Image is a
two-way process between the observer and the observed, based both on
the outer shape and on how one interprets and organises that which is
being observed. The image taken is particularly valuable, be it for
movement ability or to link up bits of knowledge as well. Image is an
organiser of facts and possibilities, according to LYNCH (1982:139).
The town is an agent of socialization for children, as advocated by
GOLOMBEK (1993). Hence, it is necessary to play, to visit, to enjoy the
street, to get to know and later to recognize the spaces of urban life.
In order for the child to shape a perception of the town and to create
organising images, the child has to inhabit and to fully live the town.
Detention of mobility independence is understood within an evolving
perspective as a determined capacity for autonomy, and of mobility
before the physical environment as well as the ability to make their
own decisions, represent an essential role.
I now quote some of the sayings from these children:
For me, a town is a world with no end. It is to visit a magnificent
place where we cannot stop to rest. I love towns very much. It is also
a time to stop destroying it. Do not throw rubbish on the streets;
graffiti only on the walls. It's necessary to treat her well, like a
friend (boy, 9 years-old).
That's where people fall in love. That's where peddlers sell (boy, 9
years-old). A town is a large field inside a country and with a local
council (boy, 10 years-old).
For me, a town is a place where we can live comfortably, to discover
things we don't know; it is a space which everybody can enter into
(girl, 9 years-old).
A town is where I live and where people live with lot of joy. That's
where people go on for holidays and stay there (boy, 10 years-old).
It's a place where I do feel good. I can do lot of shopping and I can
also go to coffee shops and eat. Something I do not like the town, is
the smell of the sewers and rubbish. I don't like the noise of police
cars, either (girl, 9 years-old).
The majority of children from the analyzed universe do not go to school
on their own, despite the school being located close to their homes.
Rather, they go accompanied and usually by car. Town areas as locations
for after-school activities (sports, dancing, etc.) are also usually
reached by car, rather than autonomously. As a rule, they do not play
on the streets, either; essentially, they play within the domestic
space and on school recreational grounds. With few exceptions, they
don't visit their friends homes to play, for reasons to do with
transportation difficulties or, inclusively, for not knowing where
their friends live. Also, they do not establish playing or friendly
relationships with neighbouring children, either in the street or at
home. Usually, their outside activity is to go shopping with their
parents or grand-parents.
It is no surprise, that their wished for activities are related to the
open air and body movement. The big desire expressed by the vast
majority of children is generally, to go out, to go outside the home.
Daily life experience for these children does not show possibilities
for gradual adaptation to the urban space. In terms of autonomous use,
the town is not lived through, and their representation of it is
This research work has allowed us to understand, that socially
integrated children barely know and experience the town, their life
routines are standardized, planned and pattern organized. As such, it
doesn't make room for times of spontaneity, unpredictability, adventure
and risk, times to confront the natural space, therefore creating a
Self and a relation to others, which are very particular, insufficient
and even segmented. Street children, on the contrary, by knowing and
using the urban space more usually than not in groups make a
representation of it which does not project healthy values (indeed, our
towns, often, do not have them); and they use it as an answer to basic
needs associated to food and protection (the absence of
family-housing). Our towns have been stratifying many cumulative
mistakes; they do not transmit substantively healthy values and do not
serve either socially integrated children or these street children.
The town of the future has to begin now, in the sense that, in
territorial administration, urban planning and space projects, either
to build or to rehabilitate, it is important to take into account
children and their overall needs, as the autonomous beings that they
are, as well as their families. Also to take into account that it is
now that perception, representation and action patterns and dynamics
are established for the future. In our view, the new town implies a
socially collective responsibility and a special attention from those
responsible for planning, so that they consider as a fundamental
technical tool for their creative and conceptual efforts the results of
the children sayings about their town. Then and consequently a
better-living-for-everybody town/society might be promoted (SALGUEIRO,
1999), where life's routines and the urban space may allow a more
positive use of both freedom and creativity.
Maria João Malho
Institution: Instituto de Apoio À Criança , Portuguese NGO
Largo da Memória, 14
1349-045 Lisboa - PORTUGAL
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João (1999). A criança e a nova pediatria. Lisboa,
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
Allison Jenks, Chris & Prout Alan (reprinted, 1999). Theorizing
chilhood. Cambridge, Polity Press (1ª ed. 1998).
Henri (1971). O homem e a cidade. Mem Martins, Europa-América.
Kevin (1982). A imagem da cidade. Porto, Edições 70.
Jens (2000). Generation important category in sociological childhood
research. In Eduarda Coquet (Coord.), Congresso Internacional Os mundos
sociais e culturais da infância. Braga, Instituto de Estudos da
Criança, Universidade do Minho, II vol. (102-113).
Emílio (1999). A criança e o seu futuro " a
criança e os seus riscos. In João Gomes-Pedro (Ed.),
Stress e violância na criança e no jovem. Lisboa,
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THE WORLD IS A L(U)DA -
Impressions of and thoughts about the World Social Forum 2004
World Social Forum - what, who and why
World Social Forum (WSF) held in Mumbai (formerly known as
Bombay, India) from January 16-21, 2004 addressed various social,
economical and ecological problems concerning to common people from
different perspectives. It was the first time that this forum, which
was founded in Porto Alegre (Brazil) in 2001, moved to another place.
There were some doubts before the event took place whether a World
Social Forum in India would attract so many people (in 2003 about
100.000 people came to Porto Alegre). In the end the figures of
participants varied from 75,000 to 120,000 (about 10.000 Non-Indians).
People from about 130 countries and 2600 organisations (different NGOs,
activist movements, etc.) exchanged their ideas and thoughts at about
1,200 seminars joined under the common slogan "Another world is
possible". That there are different ideas how to reach another world
became quite obvious since opposite to the venue of the WSF at NESCO
grounds in Northern Mumbai another big event - "Mumbai Resistance" -
took place simultaneously. About 10,000 people had gathered there
raising their voices "against imperialist globalisation and war".
Whereas "Mumbai Resistance" was rather on the search for an action plan
about what to do, in particular regarding the situation in Iraq, the
charter of the WSF said: "The World Social Forum is not an
organisation, not a united front platform, but '…an open meeting place
for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of
proposals, free exchange of experiences and inter-linking for effective
action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to
neo-liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form
of imperialism, and are committed to building a society centred on the
human person.'" 
Manifold global topics discussed within those six days in Mumbai gave
an extensive overview of subjects like the role of the UN in world's
future, liberalisation of public services (GATS), child labour, women's
rights or racism of any kind to name just a few. The world's financial
market largely governed by the politics of the World Trade
Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were
scrutinized from thinking of a common man. It was visible that there
was kind of split among the people who are against globalisation and
those who demand to alter globalisation. In most of the cases this
might be mainly influenced by the way the economic globalisation is
affecting people's lives and what chances they see to stand the
neo-liberal politics of the Western countries mainly forced by
multi-national companies which are in search for the maximum profit
without any concern about human rights, social security and
environmental protection. But the WSF was not just a "market place" for
the suffering and unheard it was moreover a meeting point for different
cultures, different colours, different languages and different ways of
There were about 240 German participants including 40 delegates from
"attac Germany" making it the largest group from Germany. I assume
those six days in Mumbai might have changed the character of the
problems we presently face back at home in Germany. In a country where
260 million people live below the poverty line with an income of 1 $ a
day, things like social welfare, unemployment payment, health security,
etc. are just things people can dream of. As a matter of fact it was
quite remarkable that many of the Indian participants came to Mumbai by
virtually spending their last rupees while most of the participants
from Western NGOs stayed in 3- to 5-star hotels in Mumbai's best
regions (including myself).
- A Perfect Venue for the WSF
But what is very interesting in Mumbai is
the fact that the slums are in close neighbourhood to the
20-storey-buildings of the middle-class people and the really rich.
Isn't that another way of integrating socially disadvantaged people?
Isn't that better than to push the poorest of the poor out of the
cities giving them separated areas away from the eyes of the rich and
the tourists? Sure, slums and the people living in there are things
that have to be seen as a challenge for the whole society, but some
people also claim that it also gives freedom to people belonging to the
outcaste. There are about 150 million Indians, the so-called "dalits",
who belong to none of the four castes. When living in the villages they
can be easily identified and thus discriminated since they do the jobs
no-one else does. On the other hand the Indian government provides more
than 50% job reservation for the lower class people. For this reason
some people also say that the era when dalits were exploited is gone,
and nowadays money plays a more important role in determining once
social status. However, India is such a vast country with a population
of 1.07 billion people and different cultures making this subcontinent
as diverse as the European Union. Apart from that there might be
tremendous differences between urban and rural areas.
In addition to that attempts of the government to provide new flats to
inhabitants of the slums outside of the slum area have failed. It was
reported that some of those people (dalits) have rented their
apartments to other people and used it as a source of extra income.
Changes cannot be done merely by giving people a new flat unless their
other basic needs have been satisfied. They might have no money to
afford these flats, food and perhaps the cost for public transport
should also be considered. Moreover, after some years such
slum-dwellers seem to get used to live in a slum and the only way to
improve their conditions is the development of slums like Dharavi
former head of the
UNESCO, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, put it :
"I sometimes think that for there to be progress, a crisis is needed.
In order for there to be great change there must be a great crisis, and
we are experiencing crises like never before." And he continues: "I
have never lived a situation like the present. We are seeing an
international reality that is totally anti-democratic: The media are
used as arguments, preventive acts of war are carried out. There is an
increasingly loud outcry against this. And Mumbai is part of that
outcry." But as a journalist, one week after the WSF had finished,
stated in "The Hindu": "There are probably 75,000 ways of looking
the WSF". I think it was that united diversity supported by the
invisible spiritual power of India which made this Forum a success. One
of the most crucial outcomes of the WSF many people claimed the better
education of women in order to empower them and to give them an
essential role in a world still dominated by men.
would like to state that we have to recognise that globalisation is no
one-way-street. As we are living in the so-called Western World we have
to realise that we are not only part of the globe but moreover that the
problems we nowadays face e.g. in Germany are tremendously influenced
by the economic globalisation. Therefore, it may be that the whole
world seems to be a LUDA or even a LDA. Thus, in order to bring change
to the social, ecological and economic situation in any L(U)DA it is
first of all important to see the global contexts determining it. If we
seek to change parts of the world in a sustainable way we first need to
understand how it runs.
Taken from the WSF Charter of Principles;
"Dharavi could be a
liveable township soon" (The Times of
Taken from an interview in "TerraViva", Independent Newspaper of
the WSF, Jan 20, 2004.
Taken from "The Hindu", February 1, 2004; Website of "Mumbai
worth reading: Rahul
Rao, "The World Social Forum: a worm's eye view",
would like to thank Pradeep Pareek from the Indian Institute of
Technology in Delhi (currently PhD student at TU Dresden) for
correcting my English and giving some extra insights in the Indian life.