Does the “Developing Countries Girl” Exist?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marilia CARVALHO, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil
Adriano SENKEVICS, Instituto Nacional de Estudos e Pesquisas Educacionais, Brazil
The notion of a homogenous “girl from developing countries” underlies as an implicit assumption in many academic papers in the field of education and development. Such girl is supposed to be uneducated, oppressed by traditional gender patterns, family oriented, victimized and object of processes on which she has no influence. She is understood as having no access to school or to a safety childhood, burdened with domestic or paid work and having no agency to build better conditions, either in the present or in the future. As a result, the diversity of experiences of young women within the developing countries, the range of possible femininities, and their own negotiations and resistances are likely to go unrecognized. This paper aims to criticize this notion, putting together tools offered by post-colonial theories, feminist studies and the sociology of childhood. This means using a concept of a socially constructed gender, which emphasizes its contradictory, non-linear aspects, and also taking children as active subjects in the process. Therefore gender relations are defined – in the global North as much as in the global South - as a complex dynamics of power, resistance, oppression, and freedom, inside a specific context. Empirical finds on girls from urban low-income families from São Paulo, Brazil, are used to exemplify how that monolithic notion of a “girl from developing countries” is useless to understand their diverse life experiences, their high performance at school and their active position in feeding new life perspectives for their future.