Using art to help protect girls and young women in Africa at risk from violence

Picture of Professor Tamsin Bradley

Arts-based approaches will be used to help reduce the violence suffered by young women and girls in South Sudan.

  • 13 August 2021
  • 3 min read

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth have been awarded more than £500,000 to help protect vulnerable young women and girls in Africa at risk from violence.

The project will use arts-based approaches to better understand what works to reduce the violence suffered by young women and girls in South Sudan.

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) surges during conflict and insecurity and South Sudan has one of the highest rates in the world. The two-year project, which started in July, will engage young people through arts and creativity to protect people affected by conflict.

The project will focus on understanding the vulnerabilities of young women and girls including gender discrimination, intermittent access to education, training, livelihoods, racism and cultural conflicts – all of which impact on resilience-to-violence and general wellbeing.

It will evaluate past projects designed to support young people into sustainable safe futures and then take the findings to create a new project that will be trialled by the NGO Plan International across a number of sites in South Sudan.

Picture of Professor Tamsin Bradley

In a country that's gone through so many decades of war, art becomes a really critical way of communicating and reconciling with past experience, but also a really important way of maintaining connections.

Professor Tamsin Bradley, Professor in International Development Studies

Professor Tamsin Bradley, Professor in International Development Studies, and her colleagues Dr Angela Crack and Dr Zara Martin won the research grant of £518,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Global Challenges Research Fund. They will be working with colleagues from University College London, Plan International, and the Likikiri Collective in South Sudan.

Professor Bradley said: “Art is incredibly rich and diverse. South Sudan has a culture and a context in which different forms of art are really highly valued, almost everybody has some connection to some art form. It might be beading, it might be embroidery, it might be carpentry, it might be painting, street theatre, singing and dance - song and dance are really important art forms in South Sudan.

“In a country that's gone through so many decades of war, art becomes a really critical way of communicating and reconciling with past experience, but also a really important way of maintaining connections. Communities in South Sudan are frequently displaced either by war or by drought. So again, art becomes a way of connecting people to their identity, their cultural and ethnic identity, but also to particular environments. So in that sense, it's a really exciting country to be developing this very innovative arts approach in.”

The project is one of 13 arts and humanities research projects, jointly funded by the AHRC and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which form the Collaborative Humanitarian Protection Research Programme.

The programme is developing policies for humanitarian agencies and donors to protect those living in fragile and conflict areas.

Communities in South Sudan are frequently displaced either by war or by drought. So again, art becomes a way of connecting people to their identity, their cultural and ethnic identity, but also to particular environments. So in that sense, it's a really exciting country to be developing this very innovative arts approach in.

Professor Tamsin Bradley, Professor in International Development Studies

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair and UKRI Champion, said: “The millions of people living amidst conflict are among the most vulnerable in the world.

“426 million children live in conflict areas, according to Save the Children and, by 2030, The World Bank Group estimates that up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor could live in fragile, conflict and violence settings. Conflicts also drive 80 per cent of all humanitarian needs.

“Our understanding of humanitarian protection is vital to support the better protection of those affected. At a time of acute pressure on overseas funding, AHRC is proud to work with FCDO to support this essential research.

“The partnership with FCDO provides a critical opportunity to inform future humanitarian policies, and to work for and with those suffering from conflict over decades to come.”

Find out more about Professor Bradley’s research on women, work and violence in South Asia on our Life Solved podcast.


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