Georgina Yaa Oduro, Sharlene Swartz and Madeleine Arnot,
Theory and Research in Education, SAGE Publications
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Using a social ecological approach (Bronfenbrenner) to violence and including Hobsbawm’s historical analysis of the collective uses of violence, this article shows how gender-based violence is experienced and used. Drawing on three distinct studies in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, it shows the commonalities and divergence of young people’s experiences of violence. It links the microsystems of school, community, street and family with the larger macrosystems of poverty, government policies, power relations and structural violence.
This approach highlights the relationship between the forms of gender-based violence, youth experience, and the marginalized and deprived habitats in which our research was conducted. Violence experienced by young women is shown to be linked to the ways in which young men use violence as vehicles of revenge and retribution, a desire for respect, expression of love of a mother, control over female sexuality and, ultimately, assertion of collective notions of masculinity on the street and in sprawling urban settlements. We conclude by attempting to identify what is needed to challenge the violence inflicted by poverty on young people, especially young women, the denial of their rights, and the violence they inflict on themselves and others.