Handbook on Gender and Adolescence: Voice, Agency and Power
We are increasingly seeing a world in which a growing youth population exists in a state of ‘waithood’: a frustrated transition into adulthood that is characterised by economic and political marginalisation that challenges linear understandings of age and intergenerational change (Jeffrey 2010; Honwana 2019). Issues such as inequality, unemployment, education, conflict and displacement are of great relevance and importance for adolescents and younger people in lower and middle-income countries, where they are already often at the forefront of both progressive and also reactionary political change and activism. Placing young people’s perspectives at the heart of these debates is key to future research on these dynamics (van Blerk 2019).
Opportunities for agency and participation are shaped by age, gender and citizenship. Adolescents are largely unable to exercise voting rights, with the majority of countries limiting suffrage to those over the age of eighteen. Social norms around age and gender mean that younger adolescents also have limited opportunities for voice and agency; yet whilst adolescent boys’ social networks widen as they age, girls find their mobility and participation in decisions both within and beyond the home increasingly restricted as they transition through adolescence (Cresswell and Uteng 2008; Porter 2011; Basu and Acharya 2016; McCarthy et al 2016; Jones et al., 2020).
Despite the constraints they encounter, a wealth of research draws attention to the negotiation, navigation and resistance of adolescents vis-à-vis intersecting structures of power – including political regimes – in their everyday lives (Katz 2004; Lansdown 2005; Jeffrey 2012; Abebe et al 2017). However, there remains limited attention to the connections between adolescents’ voice and agency on the one hand, and their antecedent and emerging participation in processes for democratic, sustainable and equitable development on the other. In particular, the gendered and age-related nature of these dynamics has not been properly interrogated.
Call for contributions
The handbook we propose will contribute to new and emerging areas of debate about adolescents’ experiences of voice, agency and civic and political participation in lower- and middle-income countries through evidence-based accounts that speak to broader thematic issues. Following introductory chapters, the handbook will be comprised of six inter-related sections, each exploring a different socio-ecological sphere in which adolescents are exercising voice and agency. Spheres to be explored will include different aspects of community ecosystems, including i) peer groups; ii) families and neighbourhoods; iii) organised youth groups and clubs; iv) youth movements; v) in/formal political participation including youth involvement in party politics; and vi) virtual/digital spaces for citizenship.
We seek topical abstracts of around 100 words that engage with one of these six socio-ecological spheres, which if selected will be developed into a chapter of 6,000 words. Chapters should draw on mixed-methods and/or participatory research with adolescents and young people in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the MENA region, including humanitarian contexts. Chapters will contribute to knowledge about the specific topic being explored and elucidating challenges and connections between adolescents’ voice, agency, participation and citizenship. We ask authors to pay particular attention to the heterogeneity of young people within each sphere, including differences by gender, age, marriage, disability and refugee or migrant status.
- Deadline for abstracts and expression of interest: June 25th 2021
- Notification of acceptance: September 8th 2021
- Deadline for chapter submission: Oct 15th 2021
(Alongside these empirical contributions, we are also soliciting contributions to the Handbook from adolescents across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the MENA region which explore personal experiences of voice, agency and civic and political participation in one of the socio-ecological spheres described above.)
To discuss a potential contribution, please email us with ‘Handbook’ in the subject line at: GAGE-RREF@odi.org.uk
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is the African Union Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage, Board Chair of Action Aid International, and Founder and Chief Executive for Rozaria Memorial Trust. Her work includes championing young people and women’s rights and participation in social justice, governance and peacebuilding. She has worked extensively on culture and children’s rights and undertaken collaborative research on mental health and child marriage.
Nicola Jones is a Principal Research Fellow at the ODI and the Director of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence (GAGE) consortium, a nine-year longitudinal initiative exploring the gendered experiences and capabilities of adolescents in six lower- and middle-income countries in East Africa, South Asia and the MENA region, including their voice, agency and participation. She has a particular interest in supporting the voices of marginalised adolescents, including adolescents with disabilities, married adolescents and those affected by forced displacement.
Kate Pincock is a Researcher on the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence programme and Research Associate at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on gender, youth, agency and empowerment, particularly in humanitarian settings. Her previous projects and publications have explored community-based responses to global governance by displaced populations and the experiences of adolescents in crisis contexts.
Lorraine van Blerk is a Professor in Human Geography at the University of Dundee. Her research focuses on Youth Geographies including transitions to adulthood, identities and capabilities particularly with marginalised youth including refugees and street-living young people. Lorraine leads ‘Growing Up on the Streets’, a qualitative longitudinal project exploring the capabilities and agency of homeless young people in three African cities.
Abebe, T., Waters, J. and Skelton, T. (2017) Geographies of Children and Young People 10: Labouring and Learning. Singapore: Springer.
Basu, S. and Acharya, E. (2016) Gendered Socialization of Very Young Adolescents: Perceptions and Experiences of Adolescents and their Parents from a Disadvantaged Urban Community of Delhi, India. Paper presented at conference on Adolescence, Youth and Gender: Building Knowledge for Change; 8–9 September, Oxford.
Cresswell, T. and Uteng, T.P. (2008) Gendered mobilities: Towards an holistic understanding. In: T.P. Uteng and T. Cresswell (eds) Gendered Mobilities. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate: 1–12.
Honwana, A. (2019) Youth Struggles: From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter & Beyond. African Studies Review, 62(1): 8-21.
Jeffrey C (2010) Timepass: Youth, class and the politics of waiting. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.
Jeffrey, C. (2012) Geographies of children and youth II: Global youth agency. Progress in Human Geography, 36(2): 245–253.
Jones, N., Presler-Marshall, E., Kassahun, G. and Kebedi, M. (2020) ‘Constrained choices: exploring the complexities of adolescent girls’ voice and agency in child marriage decisions in Ethiopia’. Progress in Development Studies. 20(4): 298–311.
Katz, C. (2004) Growing up global: economic restructuring and children’s everyday lives. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.
Lansdown, G. (2005) Innocenti Insight: The Evolving Capacities of the Child. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.
McCarthy, K., Brady, M., and Hallman, K. (2016) Investing When it Counts: Reviewing the Evidence and Charting a Course of Research and Action for Very Young Adolescents. New York: Population Council.
Porter, G. (2011) ‘I think a woman who travels a lot is befriending other men and that’s why she travels’: Mobility constraints and their implications for rural women and girl children in sub-Saharan Africa. Gender, Place and Culture 18(1): 65–81.
Van Blerk, L. (2019) Where in the world are youth geographies going? Reflections on the journey and directions for the future. Children’s Geographies, 17(1): 32-35.