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[i]. 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 but 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[ii].
Opportunities for agency and participation are shaped by age, gender and citizenship status. 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 often find their mobility and participation in decisions both within and beyond the home increasingly restricted as they transition through adolescence.[iii]
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.[iv] 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 from adolescents
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. Following introductory chapters, the handbook will be comprised of six inter-related sections, each exploring a different sphere of life 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, including within religious institutions; iv) youth and other social movements; v) in/formal political participation including youth involvement in party politics; and vi) virtual/digital spaces for citizenship.
In our ambition to centre and amplify the voices and perspectives of adolescents with regard to these themes, we specifically invite contributions to the Handbook from adolescents across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the MENA region.
Contributions should reflect on your personal experiences of voice, agency and civic and political participation in one of the socio-ecological spheres described above. Contributions may take the form of traditional written reflective accounts or vignettes about your experiences of participation. They may also be submitted as poetry or lyrics; photographs or other artistic work such as illustrations or graphics accompanied by a narrative; or other creative expressions. These pieces will be included in the handbook alongside traditional academic contributions.
Please submit your name and contact details, along with a sentence on why you want to contribute to the Handbook (for example, a short overview of your personal experience of participation, voice or agency) and two sentences on what your contribution would be and in what format (for example, a story about your experiences or a piece of art about using your voice) by June 25th 2021.
You will be notified of acceptance of your contribution by July 30th 2021. The final deadline for submission of accepted contributions will be October 30th 2021.
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.
[i] Jeffrey, C. (2010) Timepass: Youth, class and the politics of waiting; Honwana, A. (2019) Youth Struggles: From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter & Beyond.
[ii] Van Blerk, L. (2019) Where in the world are youth geographies going?
[iii] Cresswell, T. and Uteng, T.P. (2008) Gendered mobilities; Basu, S. and Acharya, E. (2016) Gendered Socialization of Very Young Adolescents; Porter, G. (2011) ‘I think a woman who travels a lot is befriending other men and that’s why she travels’; Jones, N. et al (2020) ‘Constrained choices’; McCarthy et al (2016) Investing When it Counts.
[iv] Katz, C. (2004) Growing up global; Lansdown, G. (2005) The Evolving Capacities of the Child; Jeffrey, C. (2012) Geographies of children and youth; Abebe, T. et al (2017) Geographies of Children and Young People.