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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


Who is a child?

Category: Uncategorized

28 Jan 2015

MRTThe question of who is a child is usually resolved by the measure of chronological age. The Bangkok public transport system provides some interesting alternatives.

The picture above is of a measure placed next to a ticket machine of the Bangkok underground system (MRT). Those less than 90 centimeters travel free of charge, and those less than 120 centimeter qualify for a discounted ‘child fare’.




Interestingly, this is only partly consistent with the measures used for the above-ground system: the Bangkok  ’Skytrain’ (BTS). Here, children less than 90 centimeters also travel for free but there is no discounted ‘child fare’. The 140 centimeters line indicates free travel on Thailand’s annual children’s day only, which is celebrated each second Saturday in January and was this year themed ‘knowledge and morality lead to the future‘.

The use of height in defining who is a child, and thus qualifies for free or discounted travel, casts in an entirely different light a call in late 2013 (see also HERE) by the Thai Minister of Public Health to encourage young Thai to drink more milk in order to grow taller.




Category: children's rights| conferences

2 Jan 2015

downloadNovember 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of both the fall of the Berlin Wall as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC). Numerous conferences worldwide were organised to commemorate these events, yet it seems none of them explored the relationship between these two historical moments.

The UN-CRC opened for signatures on 20th November 1989 and to date a total of 194 states are party to the Convention. However, appreciating its history requires going well beyond 1989.

In 1924, the League of Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. This one-pager listed five needs of children that must be provided for (by adults). Following the dissolution of the League of Nations, discussions about a new Declaration started within the United Nations leading to the 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child. This short document contains a preamble and ten principles. One of the areas where it differs from the 1924 Declaration is with regard to work. Where the 1924 Declaration states: ‘The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation’. The 1959 document reads: ‘The child shall not be admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age; he shall in no case be caused or permitted to engage in any occupation or employment which would prejudice his health or education, or interfere with his physical, mental or moral development’.

In 1978, it was Poland that proposed the idea of a Convention on the Rights of the Child; a document that unlike a Declaration would be legally binding. What followed was a decade of drafting and negotiation before the Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 1989. Importantly, the drafting thus took place in time in which East-West relations were very different from when the Convention entered into force.

In her book The International Law on the Rights of the Child, Geraldine van Bueren is wary of reducing the understanding of the coming into being of the UNCRC to Cold War geopolitics (p13). Whilst this is no doubt correct, she does not elaborate on the role that Cold War geopolitics might nonetheless have played. Since children’s right to participate in matters affecting them did not appear in any of the Declarations yet features prominently in the UNCRC it raises interesting questions of how the emergence of this participation right might be understood in this geopolitical context. It is further worth noting that the 5 states, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Laos and Cuba, that have remained socialist to date were among the first to ratify the Convention. Vietnam ratified the UNCRC in February 1990 (the second country, globally, to do so after Ghana) and China closed the rank in March 1992.

Many of the conferences that celebrated the 25th anniversary of the UNCRC took a stock-taking approach (what has it achieved?) whilst also looking into the future (how can it be employed better?). These are certainly valid questions to which an exploration of its historical relation with the Cold War would have yielded no response. However, with quite some of the people involved in the drafting of the UNCRC still alive perhaps there is also to say for an enquiry into its political history.

posted by Roy Huijsmans


cseIn October 2014 the International Institute of Social Studies hosted an expert meeting on ‘comprehensive sexuality education’. The event was organised by Share-Net International, Share-Net Netherlands, Institute of Social Studies (ISS/EUR), IS Academie (UvA), Rutgers WPF and dance4life. The meeting was attended by over 70 participants. The aim of the expert meeting was to provide an overview on evidence and research gaps, share experiences with designing and implementing CSE, and to highlight CSE from young people’s perspective.This is the first in a series of posts by guest contributor Sara Vida Coumans looking back at this event.

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) aims to assist all human beings, thus including young people, in understanding and enjoying a holistic view on sexual and reproductive health and rights to be able to make informed decisions regarding their own life as well as regarding their environment and act upon them in all stages of their lives in dignity, equality, security and with respect.

CSE is most often targeted at young people. This is evident from CSE related targets set by various governments which typically include:

-       Eliminating all new HIV infections amongst adolescents and young people aged 10-24;

-       Increase to 95% the number of adolescents and young people aged 10-24, who demonstrate comprehensive HIV prevention knowledge levels;

-       Reduce early and unintended pregnancies among young people by 75%;

-       Eliminate gender-based violence;

-       Eliminate child marriage;

-       Increase the number of all schools and teacher trainings institutions that provides CSE to 75%.

UNESCO is one of the agencies that has embraced the CSE discourse. A short youtube clip entitled  ‘Young People Today’ sheds some interesting light on how UNESCO sees youth in relation to CSE. Despite the title of the clip, the narrative is an illustrative example of how young people are framed with their citizenship and rights in the future and not in the present, a discourse in which ‘they are the future of tomorrow’. Furthermore, within this discourse one can see how young people’s sexuality is approached in the present from a risk based approach, without talking about pleasure and sexual rights of adolescents and young people. One of the aims of the expert meeting was to unpack such an approach to youth and sexuality and to discuss alternative ways of understanding sexuality in relation to young people’s lives.

guest contribution by Sara Vida Coumans (Member, Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights)



Category: Uncategorized

24 Dec 2014

imagesThe University of Bath offers some interesting PhD scholarships. One is advertised as ‘PhD in understanding childhood – growing up in hard times‘, which is a qualitative longitudinal research project on low-income childhoods in England. It focuses on the lives and experiences of 60 children in 6 school settings over 3-5 years.

The second Bath scholarship is advertised as ‘Mobile money and children’s wellbeing in Africa‘, which seeks to cut across research on micro finance/mobile money and children’s wellbeing, whilst also engaging with the literature on the anthropology of mobile telephony. The research seeks to investigate how mobile money is entering into young people’s lives, by examining its effect on young people’s livelihood opportunities, as well as relational and subjective assessments of what young people are able to do and be.

Then there are Erasmus Mundus funded MA scholarships for a ‘European Master in Social Work with Families and Children‘. This is a two year master programme of 120 ECTS requiring students to spend a semester each in Lisbon, Stavanger and Gothenburg.



Call for Papers – EuroSEAS conference, Vienna, 11-14 August, 2015

Panel title: What Role for Southeast Asia in the Field of Youth Studies?


-Roy HUIJSMANS, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), the Hague, The Netherlands; r.b.huijsmans@remove-thisgmail.com

-Suzanne NAAFS, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia; s_naafs@remove-thishotmail.com

Panel description:

Whilst still predominated by research in the Global North, the field of youth studies is rapidly diversifying in geographical terms. One reason for this is the demographic presence of youth in the Global South due to a ‘youth bulge’ or demographic shift towards youth. Throughout the Global South, young people have taken on central and complex roles as political actors and media activists, as seen in their role in the Arab Spring and Occupy movement. In addition, the phenomenon of educated youth unemployment calls into question the links between education, employment and economic growth and challenges prominent theories about social reproduction and mobility. Finally, the apparent disinterest among youth in farming and rural futures raises questions about the place of the rural in the lives and aspirations for modernity among young Southeast Asians.

Southeast Asian research with/on youth stands out for its relative absence in any of these debates, despite it being a highly youthful region. Indeed, Southeast Asia is part of the Asia-Pacific region that is home to 60 per cent of the world’s youth population (aged 16-25). This panel invites contributions that address this apparent paradox and ultimately contribute to the question of what Southeast Asian research has to contribute to the wider and quickly evolving field of youth studies. Given the rapid socio-economic developments characterising much of Southeast Asia and the relative absence of large-scale youth protests the panel seeks to explore the unique contribution of Southeast Asian research on/with youth in a focus on everyday struggles of being young and growing up (instead of a focus on ‘spectacular youth’), rapidly changing inter-generational relations that reconfigure the social position of young people, social mobility through education and migration, and questions about gendered futures and desires for modernity among youth.


Those wishing to contribute a paper to the panel are invited to submit an abstract of 350 words maximum and a summarised CV (1 page maximum) by Feb 15th, 2015 to the convenors. Successful applicants will be notified in time for the early bird registration of the conference (which closes on Feb 28th). Full papers are due on July 1st, 2015. For further details on the 8th EuroSEAS Conference: http://www.euroseas.org/content/conference

downloadThe Centre for Children’s Rights Studies at the University of Geneva advertises two funded PhD positions part of a Swiss National Science Foundation sponsored interdisciplinary research project on child labour and working children’s rights.

The first vacancy concerns a study of the opinions of working children and their organizations, and implies field work with working children in Senegal and in other West African countries.

The second vacancy concerns a study of the discourses around claims made by working children to recognize their right to work in dignity, and involves a detailed analysis of policy and legal documents on child labour.

Overall, the project’s major focus is described as concerned with ‘how opinions of working children on their rights circulate in the space between local and international understandings of children’s rights’.


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.

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