» Archive for: February, 2015

Funded PhD positions

Category: scholarships

25 Feb 2015

oxforOxford University advertises two funded PhD positions as part of a Humanities and Science project entitled Childhood maltreatment and lifetime resilience.

The research project on Childhood maltreatment and lifetime resilience is funded through TORCH, the Oxford Research Centre in Humanities, by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Its central concern is with ‘how people, variously, find ways to make live-able lives following abuse and neglect in childhood’ and its novelty is in the combination of historical and psychological approaches to understanding resilience across the life-course.

To this end, one candidate wil be situated in the Faculty of History and working on the subject of ‘Child abuse and neglect in mid-twentieth-century Britain’. The other candidate will work on a D.Phil. in the Department of Experimental Psychology on the subject of ‘Child maltreatment and psychopathology: an investigation of risk and resilience’.

Further details HERE.



UNICEF and UNAIDS are learning that, in the fight against AIDS, they ignore adolescents at their peril. The UN organizations have released their latest statistics on HIV/AIDS worldwide, and they show impressive progress in most areas, with significant reductions in AIDS-related deaths — including the prevention of infant infection through aggressive mother-to-child transmission prevention. There is one glaring exception however: adolescents.

Girl_infections_infographics_1 New infections among adolescents (10-19 year olds) have actually risen. AIDS is now the leading killer of adolescents in Africa and the second cause of death of adolescents worldwide. Girls and young women are disproportionately affected, comprising the majority (64%) of new infections. Adolescents also face greater challenges of access and adherence to treatment than other age groups. In fact, many are not even aware that they are living with HIV (UNICEF, 2014).

In response to this glaring exception, UNAIDS and UNICEF launched the All In to End Adolescent AIDS Initiative this week in Kenya. With the support of UNFPA, WHO, PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and various youth movements, All In intends to provide ‘a new platform for action to drive better results for adolescents by encouraging strategic changes in policy and engaging more young people in the effort’ (UNAIDS, 2015).

According to UNAIDS, ‘All In focuses on four key action areas: engaging, mobilizing and empowering adolescents as leaders and actors of social change; improving data collection to better inform programming; encouraging innovative approaches to reach adolescents with essential HIV services adapted to their needs; and placing adolescent HIV firmly on political agendas to spur concrete action and mobilize resources’ (ibid.).

While All In shows promise for reversing these trends by involving more young people directly in the effort, it remains to be seen to what extent it will lead to concrete gains, either in HIV reduction amongst adolescents or greater youth participation in such initiatives (after all, UNICEF has made these points before). The initiative’s website contains few details. It is unclear, for example, what role essential support like comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) will play in All In Initiatives, despite the vast majority becoming infected through sexual transmission. madnkts

Further, All In pledges to engage young people, but with All In calling on ‘national leaders to coordinate, support and lead assessments of existing programmes and expand partnerships for innovation between the public and private sectors’ (ibid. ), young people’s participation may easily be hijacked or usurped by others’ interests.

The fight against HIV/AIDS clearly needs adolescents, and adolescents need to take a greater place in research and policymaking. To do this, they need support to receive and even redesign CSE (see our other recent blogposts on CSE) and other capacity building to help them make the most of participatory opportunities, and to lessen the impact of HIV/AIDS on their lives. ISS is doing this through, for example, projects that involve young people directly in research about their sexual and reproductive health needs to improve CSE delivery in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, The Dutch Children Affected by AIDS (CABA) Working Group, of which ISS is now a part, will be working to ensure that adolescents are prominently involved in the AIDS 2018 conference to be held in Amsterdam.

Posted by Kristen Cheney

The Global TVET Machinery

Category: education| youth

21 Feb 2015


‘The discovery of youth is one of the by-products of the depression. Youth has been officially identified as comprising the age range of 16-25 years. It has also been discovered that this age group has a special set of problems of vocational, personal, and social adjustment, and that society is not facilitating a smooth, easy, and natural transition for its members from childhood into settled and happy adult life.’ (Bentley, 1937: 34)

As the case at the time of Bentley’s writing nearly 80 years ago also today youth have been identified as a social group that is disproportionally affected by economic crises. Indeed, the phenomenon of youth unemployment has been recognised as a global problem. This has led to global responses, which inevitably lead to standardised policy approaches based on a homogenized view of the issue at stake. The can be illustrated by UNESCO’s approach to ‘technical and vocational education and training’ (TVET).

For example, UNESCO established in 1999 an International Centre for Technical and Vocational Training and Education (called UNESCO-UNEVOC). One of the flagship programmes of this Centre is the setting up of a UNEVOC network envisioned linking TVET institutions in UNESCO Member States the world over with the explicit aim of promoting TVET systems and policies, and sharing of TVET related knowledge and experience. Amongst other things, this has led to the setting up of a ‘Global TVET database’, a repository providing ‘concise, reliable and up-to-date information on TVET systems worldwide’ and a ‘TVETipedia’, ‘an internet portal where users can exchange information and share knowledge’ on TVET. Furthermore, the country reports in the UNESCO-UNEVOC’s Global TVET database all follow the same organizational structure, and recommendations of expanding national TVET systems take similar shapes characterised by a focus on expanding formal, classroom based education and training.

Such a global TVET machinery approach is usefully contrasted with Bentley’s contextualised and historicised plea for ‘vocational guidance’ for youth in the USA at the time of the Great Depression. His call for ‘vocational guidance’ was based on the historical observation that economic development in the USA had brought about a situation in which the world of work had become separated from the domestic sphere. As a result, he argues, ‘the home and home life no longer contribute vitally to the induction of youth into vocational life’ (Bentley, 1937: 34). Given the institutionalization of the productive and reproductive spheres into separate realms in which gender and generation worked as important structuring relations, Bentley’s plea for vocational guidance amounted to a call for permeating these boundaries by introducing youth to the world of work both within the school and beyond the space of the classroom (ibid 1937).

To-date, in much of the world the home has far from lost its ‘productive character’. Thus, the household, and everyday life more generally, continues to offer much potential for the acquisition of vocational skills as well as exposure to vocational options. At the very least, this raises some questions about the self-evidence with which formalised vocational training offered in TVET schools is in the global policy literature presented as a solution to an apparent ‘skills problem’ of youth.

posted by Roy Huijsmans

chantalThis is the second posting on the expert meeting on ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ (CSE) hosted at the ISS last October (first posting HERE). The event was organised byShare-Net InternationalShare-Net NetherlandsInstitute of Social Studies (ISS/EUR)IS Academie (UvA)Rutgers WPF and dance4life.

Young people’s sexuality is often associated with fear, evoking control and repression. This can also be recognized in the targets set by governments in Eastern and Southern Africa. Sara Vida Coumans argued at the expert meeting that this is rooted in the narrow idea that sexuality is related to sexual intercourse. Such an understanding of sexuality that does not acknowledge that sexuality is also experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, behaviours, practices, and relationships and is influenced by gendering processes.

Chantal Umuhoza (see picture above) further argued that there is a need to move away from such fear based approaches within CSE. Umuhoza elaborated on such a ‘non-protectionist approach’ towards youth by drawing on her experiences as a peer educator in Rwanda:

In addition to taking age as a social construct, there is a need to adopt a positive approach to young people’s sexuality and to develop young people’s capacity as a way to remove barriers to their meaningful participation.  Changing the mindset of what sexuality means, not just for young people but for everyone in general, is important, as successful CSE would need an enabling environment as well.”

As a consequence of a narrow understanding of the term sexuality, being related to sexual relations only and not to pleasure, positive values and practices, an environment is created in which age control mechanisms (such as parental consent laws), virginity tests  and heteronormative practices shape the dominant discourse towards CSE. Based on research with youth in Malawi, Undie et al. recognize that addressing the concept of pleasure within CSE can be controversial, “but can help with ensuring that sexuality education interventions are well tailored to young peoples’ culture” (Undie et al. 2008: 12). While CSE as a term is more and more recognized, there is a need to remain critical to whether CSE curricula deliver a comprehensive scope of information and to reflect on who defines what is comprehensive and in relation to whom?

guest contribution by Sara Vida Coumans


International Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.