I graduated from the University of Sussex in 2001 with a BA (Hons) in Geography and Development Studies. I then developed my career as a researcher by working for British non-governmental organisations Barnardo’s and Centrepoint. Developing from a graduate researcher to Senior Policy and Research Officer I conducted research into the issues facing vulnerable children and young people from a variety of social, economic and cultural backgrounds.
I returned to academia in 2008 when I studied for a Masters in ‘Children, Youth and International Development’ at Brunel University. I was then awarded a studentship to study for a PhD at the University of Reading. I completed my PhD, titled ‘Making the transition to adulthood in Zambia: a comparison of caregiving and non-caregiving youth’ in 2014. While completing my PhD I was also employed at the University of Reading as a Teaching Fellow, co-teaching on a number of undergraduate modules, and a Research Fellow working alongside colleagues on a number of UK-based research projects.
I have volunteered and conducted research in a number of sub-Saharan African countries, including Uganda, Kenya and Zambia, and also been a youth worker in the UK. Following the completion of my postgraduate studies I have joined the University of Portsmouth as a lecturer in Geography and Development.
My research interests focus on a number of issues that fall within the wider discourse of International Development. These include children, young people and families, HIV and AIDS, disability and caregiving and the wider role that gender plays in the development of the global South.
Children and Young People (particularly in Africa)
I am particularly interested in the role of children and young people in society. My work over the years has focused on vulnerable children and young people in both the UK and Africa, examining how issues such as caregiving, bereavement, poverty, disability and special needs, substance misuse, sexual exploitation and homelessness can socially exclude young people from mainstream society. My PhD research focused on the life transitions of young people, particularly those with caring responsibilities for a chronically sick or disabled parent or relative, in Zambia. My research demonstrated that young people’s livelihood realities cross a number of boundaries, not just caregiving and non-caregiving, but also rural and urban as well as within their roles as children, youth and adults across society as a whole.
Families and intergenerational relationships
In recognition that children and young people are also part of wider family networks my research interests also focus on the family and intergenerational relationships. This particularly links to my work on young caregiving in Zambia, as global expectations that adult care for family members who are sick, disabled or have other care needs are increasingly being challenged. I am interested in how family relationships in eastern and southern Africa are built upon notions of reciprocal responsibilities to provide care and support for the young and older generations according to an implicit 'generational bargain', but how children and young people are increasingly taking on these roles. My research analyses the impact of this on young people’s transitions to adulthood and their aspirations for the future.
Transitions to Adulthood and young people’s mobilities
This is a relatively new area of interest within geographies of children and youth. Linked to notions of ‘the lifecourse’, my research into transitions focuses on how young people negotiate their pathways to adulthood according to various temporalities and spacialities. Youth transitions are conceptualised as the events through which young people leave childhood behind to take on new roles and responsibilities as adults. My research in Zambia focuses on how older ‘youth’ seek to negotiate their pathways to adulthood, while managing their caring responsibilities and coping with significant family changes. I am particularly interested in the notion that young people are finding it increasingly difficult to make socially expected transitions linked to their age and lifecourse stage due to the social and economic challenges they face.
Young people are increasingly being called on to provide sometimes substantial care for older, middle and/or younger generations at a much younger age than would normally be expected. An estimated 15 per cent of the global population is living with a disability (WHO, 2011), 80 per cent of whom live in the global South, where resources to support them are very limited (UN, 2011). The HIV epidemic in eastern and southern Africa has had major impacts on families and communities over the past three decades, as they struggle to care for large numbers of people with a highly stigmatised, chronic, life-limiting illness, often with very limited public social protection or healthcare resources. Within this context my research focuses on the impact of caring on children and young people’s family relationships and how, as a result, they negotiate their transitions to adulthood.
The aspirations of young people is of particular interest in the global North and has increasingly become the focus of policy attention, particularly the assumed need to ‘raise’ aspirations as young people complete their transitions to adulthood. There is a dearth of research, however, focusing on the aspirations of youth in sub-Saharan Africa. A focus on young people’s everyday lives and the challenges they face means little research has recognised young people also want to have a future. My research interests focus on how young people in sub-Saharan Africa sustain or adapt their aspirations in the face of structural constraints and what this means for their current and future wellbeing.