Given I just brought up the issue of child protagonism in my previous post, thought I should add a few words about what I am discovering. Here’s some thoughts on it:
Within Latin American childcare organizations there have been recent discussions about a methodology called “protagonismo infantil.” The term, while unfamiliar to the English reader is gaining ground within many Latin American fields. “Protagonismo infantil” is a Spanish term that is difficult to translate into the English language. From this point forward, I will refer to it as “child protagonism.” Although the terminology is not as precise in English (and even awkward) as it might be in Spanish, it will become evident in the defining the term what it means.
In perceiving an oppressed group (or person) as “the protagonist” what is meant is there is an understanding that they are the central political/social actors of a movement. In the following discussion, children and adolescents are perceived as the central political/social actors who transform their own social environment. Former Priest and philosopher, Alejandro Cussiánovich has written extensively on the issue. He lists the following as essential elements contained in the term:
· From birth, children explore the world: this is a crucial anthropological factor pointing to their active role (children are not ‘passive’ or ‘objects of’).
· Children respond spontaneously to the exclusion and denial of their subjectivity and dignity by coming together with other children.
· Adulthood itself is undermined by the crises in the workings and authority of traditional institutions in the area of education and control of children, especially the family and school.
· The experience and growing number of working children, their contribution to survival, makes them feel useful, capable, productive and responsible.
Child protagonism provides a helpful understanding as we explore the issues of empowerment and child participation. Another helpful description is found in the idea that empowerment and participation are sub-themes to the larger protagonism concept. Cussiánovich identifies the following components as contributors to child protagonism: “participation, representation, projection, solidarity, self-reflection or identity, autonomy and continuity.” So protagonism seems to emcompass what we know about child particpation and empowerment, yet goes beyond both in its aim at including children as transformative actors.
While my primary research here in Cochabamba is not necessarily focused on political movements among children at risk, just the fact that children are engaging in political action is of interest. If children engage in political action, what might they be able to do in the extension of the kingdom if we give them that opportunity?