Gendered perspectives and experiences of work : a case study of the life worlds of boys and girls in Rakai District, rural Uganda
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Although children’s work has been much researched in Africa, the complex ways in which the intersection of culture and gender shapes the type of work children do is less understood within childhood studies. The main aim of this research was to explore the gendered perspectives and experiences of work identifying the type, duration and range of productive and reproductive work children perform, and exploring how the societal perspectives and attitudes towards gendered social roles shape children’s work in rural Uganda. More concretely, the study achieves the following interrelated objectives; a) to explore family and societal expectations from the children, b) to find out the different work roles or tasks performed by children, c) how the community in Rakai perceive children’s contributions towards the community and d) to explore how girls and boys combine work, play and leisure. Semi structured interviews, focused group discussions, field notes and documentation, recall, dairies and archival record were used. Snowballing and purposive sampling were used to recruit participants. Qualitative methods were used to collect the data as a way to encourage participants to freely express their views. The study was rooted in the sociology of childhood which acknowledges children as social actors rather than the traditional perception of them being inadequate, incompetent and dependant. Right based approach was adopted in order to position working children in Rakai as rights holders, as well as a gender approach which identify children in the social interactions and societal values based on their perspectives and experiences as well as those of their guardians. The study found out that children believed that they make substantial work contributions to the rural production and reproduction both independently and along adults. The community believed that children’s work is vital to both the households and the community and cannot be separated from that of their family’s survival as there is interdependency between children and the elders of the community. The existence of female headed household has increased the enrolment of children into work as the need arises to support their households thus giving birth to expectations that translates into work. Erosion of traditional livelihoods has led to the loss of children’s informal socialisation practises at work, and there is integration of work, play and leisure by the children while strategizing ways of making the three aspects go hand in hand. Fostered children form a special category in rural Uganda and they are quite numerous but their perspective was not studied. The study therefore recommendations specific research to explore their experiences and perspectives. This is because the study questions the implications of fostering as a way to ensure children’s bright future.