Participatory Diagramming for Engaging Youth in a Gender Equity and Community Development Dialogue: An African Exemplar

Cheryl Williams, Pammla M. Petrucka, Sandra L. Bassendowski, Claire Betker


It is recognized that community development efforts are often impacted and subjected to the realities of a range of inequities. In the slums of Kibera, Kenya, the challenges of gender inequities amongst young men and women were considered using a participatory diagramming approach. Such a critical technique rigorously delayers the contexts and issues which create, embed, and sustain the inequities. This research used four diagrams in an effort to fully explore and reveal the issues, increase awareness of the social injustices, and probe for desired actions towards the preferred futures for the 49 youth participants involved in the study. The key learnings from the participants included their understanding that social status and roles were highly influenced by age, gender, marital status, and ethnicity. These participants felt that, with the exception of marital status, these factors were outside of their control, which limited their ability to change the structures and situations in which they lived. Further, the participants acknowledged the differential for risks for poverty, health, employment, and social status across genders. They clearly articulated systemic barriers such as resource ownership, inheritance, and entitlements which clearly disempowered women. A clear distinction across genders was in the perception of political will, in which women felt that the government was bringing people together whereas their male counterparts felt the government was ineffectual and perpetuated the inequalities. The participants strongly articulate the need for visibility and voice in the political context in order to affect social change. It is through education and training that these individuals felt they could overcome the inequities they experience and contribute fully to their families, communities, and nation.

Keywords: youth empowerment, global community development; participatory diagramming; Kenya, critical social theory

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.