adolescent boys and gendered social transitions in ethiopia (7 september, 2015)

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Adolescent boys and gendered social transitions: Findings from the Young Lives studyin Ethiopia

Gina Crivello and Nikki van der Gaag

Development Studies Association ConferenceBath, 7-8 September 2015



Young Lives: a study of child poverty

An interdisciplinary study which aims to improve understanding of the causes & consequences of childhood poverty and provide evidence to improve policies & practice.Following 12,000 children in 4 countries (Ethiopia, India-Andhra Pradesh, Telengana - Peru, Vietnam) over 15 years. Mixed method: survey data collection combined with longitudinal qualitative research with a nested sample.Pro-poor sample: 20 sites in each country selected to reflect country diversity, rural-urban, livelihoods, ethnicity, etc; roughly equal numbers of boys and girls.

Two age cohorts in each country followed through surveys:2,000 children born in 2000-011,000 children born in 1994-95



Young Lives study sites in Ethiopia



Our research questionsThe paper contributes to a broader stream of work within Young Lives, tracing boys and girls lives as they grow up, their differing outcomes and experiences in poverty, and when and whether their trajectories diverge.

The paper seeks to understand:

What affects boys trajectories through school and work, including their aspirations, agency, place, and changing roles and responsibilities within family and community contexts?

What obstacles do adolescent boys face as they seek to transition into young adults?



Adolescence and boys

In recent years, adolescence has risen high on the global agenda, but boys are marginalized by an overwhelming focus on girls.

In relation to social norms and expectations there has been much focus on the harms that social norms cause for girls wellbeing, but what it means to be a boy in any given time and place is also socially constructed and dynamic.

We will show how boys too can be disadvantaged by sexual stereotypes, social norms and economic adversity,

We will also show how gender norms become more entrenched as adolescents develop into young adults.



EthiopiaDespite international commitments and economic growth, almost 40 per cent of Ethiopians survive on less than $1.25 a day. One child in eight still dies before their 5th birthday.

The Government of Ethiopia is committed to improving opportunities for young people and has written these commitments into strategies and policies aimed at youth.

The Government is also committed to promoting gender equality and the gender gap has been reducing. But in 2014 the Gender-related Development Index (GDI) still ranked Ethiopia 173rd out of 186 countries (UNDP Human Development Report). There are still high levels of early marriage for girls.




Aspirations: High hopesWhen we interviewed the young people at the age of 12 (in 2006), the education aspirations of all children were high (slightly higher for boys).

They said they wanted to go to university, to be a civil servant, a doctor, a mechanic, a teacher, an engineer, or run their own small business. Many of the boys also wanted to be famous football players.

Assuming no constraints and that they would be able to stay on in school as long as they wished, 56% of the boys and 44% of the girls had said they would like to go to university.

Aged 19, 66% of girls but only 54% of boys said they wanted to be professionals.

Very few wanted to be farmers like their parents. 10% of rural boys and 5% of rural girls aspired to be farmers

Many parents have little formal education, and see education as the route out of poverty for the next generation.



How do aspirations evolve over time?

In a seven year window (age 12-19), aspirations change significantly.Children revise aspirations upward but only by a few years of schooling, mostly from secondary and pre-university study to university degree.Boys aspirations decrease over time while girls aspirations increase, particularly after age 15.(Source: M. Favara, Do dreams come true? Aspirations and educational attainments of Ethiopian boys and girls, forthcoming)

9Looking at aspirations across time provide with interesting insights on what extent children revise their aspirations and how this process of revising aspirations differs across different groups. In a seven years window, aspirations change significantly. Indeed, about 73 percent of the variation in childrens aspirations is due to within-child variation which suggest that most of children revise their aspirations, and most of them upward.


Aspirations: All the gain is toilingBoys aspirations decrease over time while girls aspirations increase, particularly after age 15. Now that the boys are 19/20, very few of them have even come close to achieving their childhood dreams. Many say they feel a sense of hopelessness and even failure, having worked hard but finding themselves still unable to make a living, provide for their families or even contemplate being able to afford marriage. Young urban men more desperate than their rural peers.

You start feeling the challenges when you get older. It is nothing good to stay here without anything. Youngsters in the area have been hopeless and have been engaged in theft and other illegal acts and even worse than this, largely because there are no appropriate jobs. If [a boys] life is not changing from day to day and if he does not do anything to boost his morale, he starts to lead a hopeless life. He starts to say there will be no change whether he lives today or tomorrow and that all the gain is toiling. (Bereket)



Mikis story: Working hard but not changing your lifeMiki comes from a neighbourhood in Addis Ababa. He has been brought up by his grandmother. As a boy he enjoyed doing the housework and wanted to be an engineer.However, when his father was sick (and subsequently died) his teacher refused to let him go back to school. Despite this, at 15, Miki said I have become a mature and disciplined person. I reconcile individuals when they quarrel.He wanted to start a small business selling eggs but could not get a loan. He ended up migrating to Sudan and became involved in smuggling and contraband. He suffered a lot of violence and was robbed.Now he sees no way out. He says that poverty is: Working hard but not changing your life. He would like to go back to school but how can I go to school in the desert? The only positive thing in his life is his girlfriend who he says looks after him. He misses his grandmother.




Schooling outcomesAt age 19, 59% of the Older Cohort were still in education (Round 4 Survey)

More boys than girls had left school, more young people from rural areas or from the poorest households.

66% of girls were still in education, compared with 56% of boys, and the girls had, on average completed slightly higher levels of schooling than the boys.

Of the older cohort, 58.6% of boys are overage for grade in school compared with only 11.3% of girls.

Although increasing numbers of children are accessing schools, the quality of schooling is often poor.

Children struggle to balance the demands of schooling with their family and work responsibilities, and schools are not always flexible to their needs.



Childrens experiences Childrens education is often interrupted because of economic shocks and adverse events such as drought, family illness or death, or because they were needed to care for siblings or other family members.

Boys have greater access to paid work outside the household, in rural areas they are needed for herding, and over time the opportunity costs of their staying in school increase.

There is a notable problem with school re-enrollment even only after several days of absence (e.g., due to work demands or to family illness). Nonetheless, boys trajectories in relation to school appear especially erratic, leaving and returning, and even after long periods of absence, there is often a wish (and sometimes a plan) to re-enrol.

The schooling trajectories of children in urban areas are much more linear than the schooling trajectories of children in rural areas.

As boys grow older, the relevance and benefits of schooling are increasingly questioned, and there is growing ambivalence.



Tufa Since I am the only boy in the family

TUFA aged 19, rural Leki

He left school in Grade 2 to seek paid work following his fathers imprisonment having been accused of stealing from the private farm he was paid to guard:

Following his imprisonment, I was forced to substitute for him and run the family. Since I am the only boy in the family and my family is poor, I was forced to drop out of school and engage in paid work to sustain the life of my family. I was hired to herd cattle for one of the households in the community, in order to feed my family. (Age 16)

Age 16, he was still in Grade 2, while his younger sister attended Grade 5. Another reason for this grade difference is because Tufa enrolled late in school, because his parents needed his assistance in herding, farming, and PSNP (productive safety net program) works. Once having finally enrolled in school, Tufa had to leave his school twice because of his fathers imprisonment something which made him unhappy because he fell behind his friends.

Age 19, Tufa regrets having dropped out of school but he feels he cannot return since he would