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The role of solvents in the lives of Kenyan street children: an ethnographic perspective

J Cottrell-Boyce


This paper explores the use of solvents among a group of street children in Ruiru, a satellite town of Nairobi. Solvent use is functional- dulling the senses against the hardship of the streetyet it also provides a link to the support structure of the ‘street family’ as a potent symbol of shared experience. Organisations working to rehabilitate street children are criticised for failing to appreciate the social context of solvent dependence amongst street children. Dependence on glue is preceded by dependence on ‘street families’, therefore organisations working to rehabilitate street children need to ensure they work through, rather than in conflict with, the ‘street family’.

Key Words: Solvents, street children, Kenya, ethnography