The title of the study is, "Seeing beyond Violence: Children as Researchers". The aim was to find out how children from various different cultural backgrounds define non-violent places, where they feel safe and secure. The thinking behind this was to use the documented examples of non-violent places to fashion strategies for the creation of a peaceful world.
Accompanied by three - adult- researchers, 40 girls and 31 boys set out with digital cameras to capture just such places and situations. Why cameras? Visual methods avoid some of the language or cultural problems, they allow you to make visible, things that sometimes cannot be explained in words and finally, this new technical development in digital photography is an uncomplicated, cost-effective and manageable method.
This study took place in SOS Children's Villages in Columbia, Nicaragua, India and Thailand. The participants were from the ages of 9 to 13. The only criteria for taking part were: that the children wanted to take part in the project and that the age range and gender mix were as fairly balanced as possible. What do the children's photographs show us?
The results can be evaluated on both material and immaterial levels. The photographs show clearly that unspoiled nature is important for children's well-being: water, flowers, trees and birds are all visible. People and relationships have been captured - family life, brothers, sisters and friends. It is important to be part of a community and to have the chance to dance, to play and to hold celebrations. Freedom, safety, peace, spirituality, laughing and even learning were all documented.
The two following quotation, comments the children made about the photographs they took, show the breadth of impressions:
"The people are walking quietly down the street. They are not being robbed; they are not arguing; they are not doing any bad things." (Gilda, 11 years old)
"It is wonderful to get a hug from mum, because it makes you feel like a child." (David, 10 years old)
Even if some people may ask themselves to what extent the children are reproducing preconceived pictures, the three researchers are convinced that the subjects of the photographs reflect the children's real desire for an improved world. They could form the basis for strategies to transform our society, away from an exploitative one towards a sustainable, fair and free one. For this reason, the three researchers have recommended further and more far-reaching studies take place, in order to capture children's perspectives. For this method as such is a contribution towards a changing society by permitting children to really participate and supporting them, as well as taking their opinions seriously.