Manual on involving children in research and advocacy work

A group of children in Keradi Panchayat in India (a Panchayat is a cluster of villages with a population of 3,500-10,000) were upset by the effects of alcohol use in their community and around 2002, they attended local government meetings to present their concerns and ask that steps be taken. But to no avail!

One of the reasons the children felt unheard was because they did not have the information to build their case on the extent of the problem of alcohol misuse in their community. And so began a fascinating participatory research project.

The children began with collecting case studies of how alcohol affected children. For example, they identified:

  • violence in the home (“We are not able to study at home”)
  • loss of income (“We do not get money for tuition fees or sometimes enough food”)
  • judgment and stigma (“We are teased by other children and teachers saying ‘your father is an alcoholic’ “)
  • health problems which led to medical expenses which led to family debt

The next steps in the project included gathering information about the number of people who drink and the amount of money spent on alcohol. One of the activities they conducted was counting the number of arrack (liquor) sachets consumed in a 7 day period to estimate how much alcohol was consumed in a year. They then used this information to estimate how much money was spent on alcohol – RS. 99,000 per month – a lot of money for a hamlet of about 400-450 people.

When the children presented the data they collected to their local government, there was a lot astonishment about their findings. One of the actions that followed included the stopping of unlicensed sales of alcohol (e.g., on bicycles or under trees), both in their state and in neighboring states. The information on how much money was being spent on alcohol also influenced adult drinking patterns.

You can download the research manual created following this project called Children as Research Protagonists: Rights-based Research by Children (2008). It describes both the research methodology as well as advocacy process. It also features lovely illustrations by Nandana Reddy and Ashwin Mohan.

You can learn more by visiting the web site of The Concerned for Working Children or read a brief article by Dag Ednal called “Children as agents of change: New manual for community involvement from CWC, India” on the Alcohol, Drugs and Development web site.