Michael Bourdillon

Professor Michael Bourdillon taught in the University of Zimbabwe for over 25 years, before retiring to focus on street and working children, on whom he has researched and published widely, as well as being involved in their support and training.

After working with an organisation supporting street children for ten years, I became aware of the need to think more carefully about children’s work generally. In the late 1990s, together with colleagues and students, I set about learning more about working children in Zimbabwe through a number of small research projects, and then to see what could be done to help them.
I was introduced to CWC by Save the Children, Norway, who invited Nandana Reddy and Nagaraj Shetiger (from Bhima Sangha) to attend a workshop on children’s work in Zimbabwe. They introduced us to the idea of a working children’s movement and the importance of empowering children to do things for themselves. Following this meeting, I was fortunate to be able to visit CWC in Bangalore, and to take part in one of their training workshops on child participation in Kundapur.
I was very impressed with what Bhima Sangha, with the respectful support of the CWC, achieved for deprived children in Karnataka. I was also impressed with the way children developed communication skills and self-confidence in their training programmes and in their various activities.
I was subsequently appointed as a faculty member of Dhruva, and in that capacity helped the CWC facilitate a training programme in child participation of educationalists in Zambia.
Partly as a result of what I learned from CWC, and with the support of Save the Children, I helped working children who were establishing a Zimbabwean branch of the African Movement of Working Children and Youth. Later I attended regional and international meetings of working children in Kundapur and in Sienna, Italy.
The lessons I learned from CWC about child-centred approaches and the importance of child participation shaped my involvement with working children in Zimbabwe, and have remained central to much of my writing and research about working children and child protection since. I have also been able to use this knowledge and experience to involve children in other research projects, and in advising other child support programmes. Their recognition by the Norwegian Parliament is well deserved and should encourage others to follow their example in empowering children to help themselves.