Roadmaps: Pathways to Adulthood of Street and Working Children in Mandalay, Myanmar

Mrs Mya Thida Soe1, Mrs War War Pyone2

1Social Policy And Poverty Research Group, Yangon, Myanmar, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Yangon, Myanmar

Whilst several hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origins of street children, less is known of their trajectories to adulthood.  Anecdotal evidence from Myanmar suggests that few street, or working children transition successfully into independent adulthood; many remain institutionalized, either in military or penal systems. Current policy approaches towards street children in Myanmar emphasize vocational pathways and institution-based rehabilitation, but with limited success. Little research to date has sought to understand the process which enable or constrain successful transition from street life. This research analysed narratives from nine adults who had successfully transitioned from life as children on the streets of the second largest city in Myanmar. Positive role models, supportive communities and a strong sense of personal motivation were key factors in enabling successful transition to adulthood, but this research also highlights the importance of place identity as both a potential enabler and constraint for transition. The powerful role of the street as a place which both shapes identity, and reinforces the ‘street child’ identity, means that successful transition depends on the availability of alternative places which construct and maintain alternative identities.


Mya Thida Soe is a research associate at the Social Policy and Poverty Research Group (SPPRG). She co-authored of “The Community Based Social Protection Maternal and Child Cash Transfers in Myanmar” (2016), “Parahita Organizations in Rural Myanmar”, and “Modern Welfare and Traditions of Reciprocity”, forthcoming in 2018.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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