Tackling VAWG in times of conflict: responding to youth voices from South Sudan

Lead Research Organisation: University of Portsmouth
Department Name: Sch of Area Stud, Hist, Politics & Lit


Our project aims to deliver evidenced-based programme recommendations to facilitate the achievement of sustainable resilience among displaced young women and girls in South Sudan (10 to age 24, which is the upper limit of the UN definition of 'youth'). The project will be driven and implemented by an extremely experienced team including academics, NGO staff and development management professionals.

We will concentrate specifically on the experiences of violence against young women and girls. The research will focus on understanding the intersections between young age and a range of vulnerabilities influencing young women and girls' resilience to violence and general wellbeing. The research process will enable the particular contextual vulnerabilities to emerge during the initial phases, but we predict a focus on a range of factors including cross-cutting issues of gender discrimination, intermittent access to education and training, livelihoods, racism, cultural conflicts and a general lack of youth decision making power. We know that girls and young women are highly vulnerable at times of conflict and post displacement caused by conflict however understanding these vulerabilities through a girl centred approach is lacking in how protective programming is designed and implemtented. This research then intends to develop innovative new methodologies in taking such an approach adhering to ethics and safeguarding practice.

We will take an innovative mixed-methods approach, combining art heritage techniques with quantitative and qualitative surveys and interview tools. This will offer a depth of insight into the ways in which varied categories of girls and young women understand and respond to their precarious positions post-displacement, and will help us to synchronise our participants' voices to provide meaningful messages for the future.

Our project will have four strands, which are not strictly chronological.

Strand 1: Scoping study of South Sudanese displacement and humanitarian interventions in South Sudan and Uganda. This will map relevant programming in the VAWG field, specifically focused on South Sudanese young people. As a part of this work, the strand will implement a detailed Systematic Review focused on drawing out the global evidence on what works to tackle violence against young women and girls.

Strand 2: Evaluative learning processes to be implemented. Based on the scoping study we will select a range of completed programmes and conduct post-project evaluations to determine what has worked well, and what the key challenges have been in terms of building sustainable resilience to gender based violence and preventing this violence. Qualitative and quantitative methods will be used for this strand.

Strand 3: Thematic learning, drawing specifically on arts-based research methods. Our thematic learning will take an innovative mix of approaches from within the arts and humanities designed to capture experiences of vulnerabilities. As a team we have already designed and used such approaches which have proven to work well in sensitive contexts, including South Sudan and other countries.

Strand 4: Design and pilot of new interventions. Based on the findings of strands 1, 2 and 3 we will work with young people in a selected context to design and implement a new intervention to target violence against displaced young women and girls. This will be driven by our Co-I Plan International, a hugely experienced international NGO. The intervention, which is likely to continue past project end, will be monitored closely to maximise further lesson learning.

Planned Impact

This research project is action orientated and applied. Each of the four strands of research are geared towards generating key learning to support interventions to bring sustainable development to displaced young women and girls. The Strand 1 systematic review will identify key knowledge gaps, in addition to identifying where robust evidence on what works already exists. Stakeholder mapping is a key activity in the systematic review process and will help us to pinpoint where new evidence will support the work of organisations and governments on the ground. Our Strand 2 evaluations of ongoing interventions will help to create more evidence around what constitutes effective, cost efficient programming for the development of young women and girls. Our Strand 3 thematic research will be informed by the evidence gaps, and lessons emerging from both these strands. The final Strand 4 will draw on the evidence of previous strands to design a new intervention as part of the action approach.

Our research will create impact from the start because of our Learning Alliance approach with development partners who are key players in designing interventions to support displaced young women and girls. The project will also develop an impact network across the contexts in which it will operate. In South Sudan we already have an active and engaged group of voluntary 'Learning Champions' including artist mentors, key humanitarian stakeholders, media professionals and academics. All our members have signalled their willingness to continue into this new project. We will expand this regional network, adding new key stakeholders in Uganda.

In essence our Learning Champions will act as bridges between the research project and the constituents we are targeting at community level. Likikiri will also continue to reach out and build important links at community level through other organisations, building a channel through which more sensitive engagement between the grass-roots, government, development and humanitarian-development professionals may be achieved. A detailed community focused communication strategy/approach will be developed in the early stages of the network, facilitated by our uptake consultant Jon Gregson who will work closely with our partners at community level.

We will also have impact on the Humanitarian-Development sectors by feeding through our community of practice into pre-existing knowledge sharing mechanisms. In our country contexts a cluster system operates which works to understand and share learning across implementing agencies, including downstream national partners. Based on thematic areas of work and practical implementation areas within countries, these groups of implementing organisations meet to discuss the practical logistics and technical challenges of working in complex contexts. Significant dissemination of knowledge happens within these groupings, and as a project team we have excellent access to them through the work of Plan International, Likikiri and Forcier Consulting (for whom a member of our advisory group works).


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Description Levels of violence against girls and young women is high. Conflict and displacement are triggers for multiple types of violence.
Youth engagement in end violence against women and girls programming is minimal but essential.
Taking an arts based approach to changing the gendered and cultural norms behind violence works.
Exploitation Route Plan International are a Co-I in this award. They will be taking forward into future programming the research results and the pilot intervention.

The arts based intervention developed by this project has been taken up by the FCDO's programme in Kenya which is supporting the African Led Movement to end FGM.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.genderfocus.org
Description The evidence generated by the research has been used to develop an arts based social norm change intervention working with young people. The intervention will be implemented by Plan International in future programming. It has also been taken up by the FCDO's programme in Kenya support the African led Movement to end FGM.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal