Project description

The project focuses on youth migrants in Ouagadougou and, in particular, on their life situations and experiences of adapting to life away from the security and constraints of large rural households. Previous research on children’s migration from south-eastern Burkina Faso, which I undertook at University of Sussex in 2004-05, unpacked the incentives for young people to migrate and the intergenerational negotiations that went on both before and during their migration. Furthermore, this research offered insights into common work trajectories of young rural migrants and potential problems related to their work.

Based on these findings, the current research explores how youth migrants create their own social networks to provide information and security in the urban setting and how they deal with problems experienced at work as well as in other spheres of life. Moreover, the research seeks to locate feasible measures to solve those problems in cooperation with the young migrants and relevant youth and labour organisations. A complementary aim of the research is to address the broader questions of how the complex aspects of young migrants’ everyday working lives match their perceptions of what social positions they can generate and occupy in the city and back home, and their creation of particular identities immediately and in the long term.

Research- and policy-wise, it is interesting to look into young migrants’ livelihoods and work experiences in great detail because it affects their future choices of whether to remain in the city, return to their place of origin or try their chances in other places, e.g. in Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Gabon or Italy.

Study area
Although the research takes place in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, where all ethnic groups in the country meet, I focus on youth migrants from the Bisa region in south-eastern Burkina Faso because I have carried out research in this region since 1997. My familiarity with this region and many people’s familiarity with me or with people in the village where I lived in 2001-02 facilitate the contact and cooperation with young migrants and make them more inclined to narrate their stories, grievances and delights to me. Moreover, the in-depth knowledge of the rural social worlds helps understanding youth migrants’ circumstances, preferences and choices.

An important part of this project is the production of primary ethnographic data by involving young migrants in the research. Therefore I will use a combination of participatory methods, from involving the youngsters in focus group discussions, to writing/recording diaries and making photographs, to employ and train a small number of young migrants to carry out interviews with their peer group. Using a range of methods will enable more young migrants to participate, since many are constrained by long working hours and the need to earn an income every day. Additionally, I plan to make in-depth interviews with young migrants myself and systematically visit the their work spaces, from small road-side restaurants, to bars, to the streets where they trade or find clients whose shoes they shine. Finally, I intend to map the approaches of Burkinabe youth and labour organisations to young migrants from rural areas in order to initiate and facilitate some communication between young migrants and relevant youth and labour organisations in Ouagadougou to see whether such an approach could elicit new and innovative tools to solve young migrants’ problems. This could be, for example, through informal or semi-formal institutions that reached out to the youngsters and offered them information about their rights, possible strategies to avoid problems and support in case of trouble .

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