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Researcher Probes Marginalized Rural Youth in the South

3 Jun 2003

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In a recently released article, UNRISD Research Co-ordinator K. B. Ghimire explores the changing environment in which young and impoverished rural people in Brazil, Egypt and Nepal currently eke out an existence and seek to get organized within civil society. The article is published in The Journal of Peasant Studies, Volume 30, Number 1, October 2002, pp. 31-72.

Under the title Social Movements and Marginalized Rural Youth in Brazil, Egypt and Nepal, Mr. Ghimire has sought to highlight the evolving trends in the roles of youth in rural social movements, noting that such movements are critical if authorities and more dominant classes in society are to listen to powerless and propertyless rural population groups.

The article first looks at essential definitions and concepts involving youth and social movements. Demographic statistics are analysed to show how the agricultural population is ageing and how the momentum in the exodus of young people to urban areas is now taking place. Mr. Ghimire also explores various trends in youth marginality and the attitudes of young people toward this process in selected rural areas in countries as far apart as Brazil, Egypt and Nepal. Recent dynamics in national policies in these three countries, their rural political contexts and youth participation in politics are also probed. The author then analyses the future of rural social movements and draws the relevant conclusions.

The author argues that the phenomenon of youth participation in rural social movements has passed largely unnoticed by development theory in general and social movements theory in particular. "This lacuna is deleterious", writes Mr. Ghimire, "not least because the main victims of globalization are the young of impoverished rural families, for whom the choice to remain in agriculture, either as petty commodity producers or as landless labourers, is in terms of economic livelihood becoming increasingly fraught." Mr. Ghimire goes on to note that "Indeed, uprooted in large numbers, rural youth may provoke a significant disintegration of the peasantry while adding to the multiplication of social problems in urban areas."

The author concludes that fortunately, "the increasing socio-economic marginality of young people in rural areas manifests itself in contemporary social movements struggling for political rights and a secure livelihood base." The article is based on case studies conducted within the framework of UNRISD ongoing research activities.

Quotes from the article are posted with the permission of Frank Cass Publishers, publisher of The Journal of Peasant Studies.

Nicolas Bovay