Zainul Sajan Virgi
Commencement: 2006; Graduation: 2011
Mozambican girls living with poverty speak out: a case of using participatory methodologies with very young adolescent girls to identify barriers to alleviating poverty
Decision makers at every level of society, local, national and international, along with NGOs and civil society are committed to alleviating abject generational poverty. In the context of what many refer to as the ‘feminization of poverty’, my dissertation focuses on girls during their early adolescent years in order to uncover the barriers that are present and which prevent them from exiting a life of poverty. By using participatory methodologies, in particular photovoice, we hear directly from ten girls between the ages of 10 – 14 who describe their experiences of living a life of poverty. In my engagement with the girls what became apparent is the impact of pre-determined roles and responsibilities on girls living with poverty. Many of these are noticeably absent in capacity building, poverty and gender related literature. Also absent in discussions related to girls living with poverty and capacity building is a spotlight on the influential role of cultural and societal norms resulting in the lower status of girls. Comprehensive data is often missing which includes specific barriers that emerge in a girl’s life including attending school, achieving optimum health, accessing diverse economic opportunities, as well as achieving independence and empowerment. In this study, the importance of obtaining data directly from girls living with poverty becomes evident. For example, girls living intimately with poverty will identify barriers which may not be readily visible to researchers and decision-makers who do not share the same life experience. Only by understanding the diverse barriers that are present in young adolescent girls’ lives that prevent them from accessing capacity building opportunities like education and literacy will decision makers be able to develop capacity building policies that will have a higher probability of being relevant, meaningful and high-impact.