Participatory research with children with disabilities in the global south

A recently published article in the academic journal, Childhood, explores how disabled children and young people in the global south can meaningfully participate in research activities that seek to understand their lives.

I am particularly interested in stretching my self-awareness of power and privilege as a social researcher interested in the lives of some of the most marginalized voices on the planet—children with disabilities. How can I empower children with disabilities to feel comfortable and able to express their ideas, opinions and perspectives to those in power and have an influence on their decision-making processes?

Title: Ask us too! Doing participatory research with disabled children in the global south

Abstract: This article considers how disabled children and young people living in the global south can be included actively in research that explores their lives. While acknowledging the complex, theoretical dilemmas in the overlapping arenas of childhood, disability and international development, the focus here is on methodology. Many researchers argue that children in diverse contexts can be active participants in research and this is increasingly occurring globally. However, this trend towards consulting children themselves is rarely extended to those with disabilities. Arguably, they are accidentally forgotten, assumed to have nothing to say or perceived to be methodologically difficult to include. Thus, disabled children and young people’s perspectives are overlooked, particularly in the global south. We describe two participatory research projects with disabled children and young people in India and Sri Lanka, and focus particularly on practical issues that arose including recruitment, information and consent processes and data collection methods. We argue that considering these issues and making the necessary adaptations to enable children with a variety of impairments to participate meaningfully contributes to enacting both the relevant United Nations conventions, the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Advocating their participation without making appropriate provisions is potentially tokenistic and unethical. It is necessary and possible to include them both in ‘mainstream’ child- focussed research, and specific disability-orientated projects. Involving disabled children in research has dual purposes: inclusion of their perspectives alongside those of other children and highlighting their disability-specific views where relevant. What they say may be surprising to some and challenge assumptions about them. Importantly, this will contribute to reducing their marginalisation from mainstream society.

Link to article: http://chd.sagepub.com/content/21/3/400.abstract

PhD-able research topic

I am thinking of some research topics that I would like to pursue in a PhD program.

Here is one such topic: A rights-based approach to children’s participation in public-private partnerships in international development

A major reason why I am interested in this topic is I believe that it can help reduce the over-commercialization of childhood, which in turn, can reduce consumption of limited natural resources. The logic follows that if children are responsible (and act responsibly as they grow) they will de-value material wealth and commercial activity, and value interactions with the natural environment. It all starts with adults (power holders in today’s society) creating the conditions for children’s genuine participation in all matters that affect them.

Some questions:

  • why a rights-based approach?
  • why children’s participation?
  • why public-private partnerships?
  • why international development?

I choose the above topics because my ecology of evidence indicates that this is how I will have the largest impact in the world. What is my ecology of evidence? For starters, check out my website at www.nickpetten.com for some of my writings, then come talk with me.