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Youth as Agents of Change for Gender Equality, Peace, and Security

Youth in Peace and Security: Welcome

Areas of Focus Centring Youth Experiences and Agency in Peace and Security

Youth tend to be overlooked as active stakeholders in academic research, too often positioned as ‘vulnerable victims’, particularly in conflict settings (Tabak, 2020). Youth agency, competencies, strengths, and contributions are ignored (Thompson et al, 2019), even while they are engaged in promoting gender equality, sustainable peace, and security initiatives around the world and simultaneously facing some of the world’s biggest challenges to gender equality, peace, and security in history. Our research team brings together an expanded community of eminent Canadian and international scholars and influential global change-makers with research expertise in youth wellbeing and gender equality to conduct research and mobilize knowledge in four strategic areas:

Youth in Peace and Security: Image

The overall goal of our research is to ensure youth are centred in strategies in support of gender equality, peace, and security.

While peace and security are a large focus of the international community, youth are often excluded from research processes and decision-making spaces related to peace and security, and as a result, few interventions, strategies, or policies address the intersectional needs of youth in insecure contexts. The following research objectives are specifically designed to actively engage youth in change strategies and center youth knowledge in gender equality, peace, and security.

Equitable Partnerships

This project will build on existing research networks and cutting-edge collaborations in Canada and globally to ensure an international, interdisciplinary, equitable, diverse, and inclusive (EDI) research partnership. The partnership includes research experts, youth, and social impact organizations working in communities coping with displacement, high rates of gang-related violence, armed conflict, and conflict-related sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence experienced by youth. Our partnership will continue to support a wider team of individuals from diverse racial, gender backgrounds and career stages, including youth researchers, students, post-docs, and research collaborators from more than 10 countries. Partner organizations will offer vital contextual knowledge of the participating countries and will enable sustainable and enduring impacts in the countries of focus. The partnership's objectives align closely with each partner organizations' goals and will allow for the expansion of research and knowledge mobilization more broadly.

Youth-centered Methods

We will employ human-centred, context-specific, mixed-methods research as well as feminist, youth-centred, participatory action research methodology to document experiences and agency of marginalized youth as they navigate structural inequalities and promote change strategies for gender equality, peace, and security. Methods include survey questionnaires, photovoice, story mapping, focus group discussions, digital and video storytelling, and online chatrooms. We will use and adapt a co-designed data collection tool (the GEM Tool) that includes training for locally-based researchers to engage in feminist data collection, participatory learning, and focus group discussions.

A Focus on Youth Flourishing

This research will advance a novel conceptual framework of youth flourishing to better understand systemic inequalities and agency that de-centres Western ways of knowing by drawing on feminist, intersectional and Indigenous scholarship. For example, the Anishinaabe concept of mino-bimaadiziwin -- a term that has potential for enhancing conceptual frameworks of youth flourishing, as it positions wellbeing as linked to relationships with the broader environment (Gross, 2016: 207), and to living “a good life in harmony with creation” (Stark, 2021: 303). We will advance a youth flourishing lens that considers: 1) how norms, institutions, and power relations disempower and marginalize youth; and 2) the empowerment, agency, and change strategies employed by youth to strategically navigate these challenges in diverse contexts. The study will adopt an intersectional lens to consider factors of difference across a range of life experiences and identities for youth, such as: gender, 2SLGBTQ+ (two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and more), age, mental and physical health, (dis)ability, marital status, and class (Humphries et al, 2021). 

Inclusive Knowledge Mobilization

Research partners will translate and mobilize knowledge generated by and with youth to co-produce improved knowledge, enhance policies, support new programming, and facilitate the inclusion and wellbeing of youth. All knowledge mobilization will involve our deliberate commitments to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).  We will ensure training, mentorship, and opportunities for co-publication with early career researchers (ECRs) and other researchers who may have limited experience with publication, including support through open access publications, so that all members of the team will have opportunities to engage in knowledge sharing and knowledge mobilization through workshops, events, conferences, publications, meetings and network activities. Locally-mobilized participants will share their qualitative storytelling projects as an unprecedented source of rich qualitative data, and will foster youth-to-youth knowledge sharing, as well as an iterative process of youth-facing social innovations for promoting leadership, skills development, and peacebuilding.

Facilitating Youth Leadership

This project will entail high-quality training and mentoring for the next generation of scholars, graduate students, postdocs, youth researchers, and community researchers to become leaders in research and programming on youth as agents of change for gender equality, peace, and security. Our emphasis on engaging youth in the co-design and co-delivery of the project will ensure that knowledge is co-owned across team members and addresses the gap in meaningful youth leadership in youth-centred interventions. We anticipate the creation of at least 183 research assistant who will be given advanced training in research methods and context-specific knowledge creation, as well as opportunities to travel for data collection.

Youth in Peace and Security: Work
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