This paper describes an approach to action research used by a group of young people in Karamoja, Uganda. With guidance from experienced facilitators, 13 young people researched the situation of youth in their area over a period of 5 weeks in November/December 2011. The basic principles used are set out in this paper. Genuine attempts were made to promote people’s research into their own issues on their own terms. This included asking questions such as who commissions and pays, how pressed everyone is for resources and time, and how ordinary people – who are not supposed to know how to do research – might suddenly take up the task with confidence and make use of facilitators without being dominated by them. The paper emphasises the importance of rigour in action research which can appear relaxed but actually is not: it needs to be done carefully and stick to its principles like glue. The findings of the research are published in a longer report “Strength, Creativity and Livelihoods of Karimojong Youth” which should be read alongside this paper.
This practitioner research, carried out by women’s empowerment organisation FAMM Indonesia, brings the voices of young women – a group consistently excluded from decision-making spaces about the allocation of local government resources – into the conversation about social accountability. Barriers to young (especially unmarried) women’s participation in public spaces include the prevailing view that doing so violates social norms, young women’s often low level of education, and family expectations. Many young women have internalised their marginalisation and lack the confidence to participate in community forums.
This paper describes participatory action research carried out in partnership with eight grassroots Indonesian women’s NGOs. Preliminary focus group discussions laid the foundation for a series of movement-building initiative workshops to strengthen rural young women’s leadership capacity, encourage critical awareness and develop their roles as community organisers. Young women’s social engagement can generate criticism and backlash, which may lead to their losing interest in public forums. As well as empowering participation in formal meetings, the research suggests that young women can overcome closed spaces through building on informal relationships and collaborations. And young women’s involvement in producing creative content (print, audio and multimedia) for use in community organising is used to strengthen their self-esteem and abilities.
The paper ends with a reflective conversation between Niken Lestari of FAMM and Francesca Feruglio of MAVC. They discuss the kind of capacity-building needed to enable young women to overcome barriers to their engagement in local governance spaces, and thus fulfil their own declared potential to contribute much more to the development of their communities.