Building sustainable improvements in gender equality for youth through creative engagement in Uganda

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of English


This project will build on previous research conducted by Plastow in Uganda (see related projects) that has demonstrated not only severe issues related to gender inequalities including domestic violence; abandonment of children; mockery of menstruating girls; coercive sexual behaviours; but also that when engaged in programmes using arts-based, dialogic methodologies both males and females have been open to changing their views and their behaviours. This Follow-On project has been developed specifically to respond to repeated requests by young people, teachers and public health professionals and community members, that this work be built on and extended to further promote gender equality and to challenge many of the damaging essentialist myths about expected male and female behaviours and misinformation in relation to sexual and reproductive health (SRH).

Previous work centred on schools in the slum district of the city of Jinja called Walukuba/Masese using arts-based workshops with young people aged 13-16 to discuss issues of SRH. It was found that not only did this work have a notable impact - see Case for Support - but that discussions arising about gender relations led to significant changes in individuals, families and school communities that were perceived to be significantly promoting good, respectful gender relations. This project will privilege the promotion of equitable gender relations, while continuing to promote understanding of SRH issues such as menstruation, sexual relationships and personal hygiene which all form part of the larger issue, but will extend the work to enable youth across Jinja to take part and sustainably benefit over the long term.

Our dialogic, arts-based practice, including the use of theatre, film, dance, poetry and art was found to be highly engaging (see Case for Support), encouraging creativity, critical thinking and enjoyment of an often challenging process of opening up to new thinking. We will therefore extend this methodology. Working in 36 schools across the city; first through performance/workshops engaging young people in considering gender stereotypes, social norms and ideals they might aspire to, we will go on to invite 200 young people from across the city to take part in 2 (100 people each) 10-day multi-arts workshops which will combine gender awareness engagement with training in and creation of artworks using theatre, film, traditional and breakdance, poetry, pop music and fine art to stimulate a creative city-wide youth arts involvement. A third workshop will take 50 young people from each of the preceding workshops and work in the same forms to enable them to move from becoming trainees to realisers of their own art works, and this will culminate in a city-wide Jinja Youth Arts Festival where young people are invited to come together to profile their creativity on the theme of gender equality. These works will have a lasting presence in various ways: murals on public walls; pop songs will be recorded and played on local radio; film, theatre, dance and poetry will be exhibited and also released on social media.

In support of youth-centred activity we will also, again as a result of many requests, provide 2-day training workshops for teachers and public health workers concerned with adolescent health, to assist them in supporting gender equality and openness in communication and support for the youth of the city. All work has been designed in response to community requests and will be based on further research workshops so that we can be sure we responding most usefully to specific local needs. The design of the artistic work has been carefully planned by a committed team of Ugandan and international artists who have all worked on related projects in recent years with Plastow and are leaders in their fields, including notably dance and pop music role models who have established professional creative careers on the back of working with Plastow in previous projects.


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