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(ANS – La Paz) – A group of researchers from the Salesian University in Bolivia, coordinated by the professor and psychologist Marcelo Pacheco, has carried out 42 interviews with children who work in the streets, in order to defend the rights of minors. According to the study, “the only achievement of the minors is to have claimed a territory “, and that does nothing to improve their conditions.
Small boys and girls and adolescents who work in the streets need to gain every day “evolutional conquests”, that is to say experiences of success, not necessarily in line with behavior suited to their real age. To gain some territory, to succeed in getting paid fully for all their work, to gain regular clients, to overcome social prejudices – these are the victories of the children who work in the streets.
This affirmed by a group of researchers of the Salesian University of Bolivia, under the guidance of Prof. Pacheco, who has concluded that the main “evolutional conquest” of the street children the appropriation of a determined space to develop their work, claiming it as their own territory
The research was conducted on the basis of 4 interviews with minors who were working as shoe-shiners in an area of 7 square kilometers in the centre of the city. This group was chosen because, according to Prof. Pacheco, the work of a shoe-shiner is “the most stable” for minors, since it is less open to control by the authorities.
In this zone, which we might define as “semi-exploitation ”, the children work on average for 38 hours a week, earning an average income of 536 bolivians, which is much lower than the minimum wage, which presently is 814 bolivians. The balaclava and brush box are part of the identity of the shoe-shiners as street workers; this last item being an element allowing entry into the conquest of a space for action.
When the physical space has been won, usually through setting up gangs, they have to move on to other “evolutional conquests” such as obtaining 100% of the price of the work done, gaining regular clients, to defend the territory gained (without invading the spaces of other gangs of associations) and successfully face up to social prejudices. Prof. Pacheco holds that these “evolutionary conquests”, as with everyone else, make the children feel that they are workers, satisfied with their present condition and with hope for the future.
Many of the working children face exclusion in their daily lives, not in the streets, but apart from work and in school. This phenomenon is reinforced by the teachers themselves. Prof. Pacheco said that in the place of work, in the process of claiming as their territory what is part of their own lives, they acquire values of solidarity, comradeship and resilience..
The research work is entitled: “Territorialización y conquistas evolutivas de los niños lustrabotas en el centro de la ciudad de La Paz: una visión integral” (Territorial claim and evolutional conquest of the shoe-shiner children of La Paz: an integral view)