13-18 year old school girls’ account and their experience of gender violence in a township school in Umlazi.
Ngcobo, Siyanda Charles.
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This study is a qualitative study that draws on an interpretive approach. The gender relational theory was used as the theoretical lens with which to view how young girls’ gendered identities are socially constructed. The purpose of this study is to explore the ways in which young girls aged 13-18 from Hope (pseudonym) Township School in Umlazi in KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa, perceive, comprehend and experience gender violence. The study examines the ways in which unequal gender power relations expose these girls to sexual violence, sexual abuse and HIV and AIDS. The study demonstrates that these girls who live in the informal settlements located near the school are vulnerable to patriarchal norms. The informal settlements from which these girls emerge are situated in lower socio-economic contexts and characterised by problematic social, economic and political issues, including high unemployment, a high crime rate, poverty, drug and substance abuse. The study is premised on the notion that all violence within the school context is gendered. This study seeks to investigate how the young girls construct their sexual identities amidst the prevailing gender violence. The findings show that some young girls are vulnerable to gender violence due to the school`s social and cultural belief systems that reinforce gender violence. The girls offer reasons for engaging in sexual practices that place them at risk, in spite of their knowledge of the dangers of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and AIDS and unplanned pregnancy. The findings also show that these young girls engage in unprotected sex with their partners due to peer pressure, and a fear of being discriminated against. The findings also demonstrate that some young girls make attempts to resist male domination by openly resisting particular stereotypical and sexist expectations of them. Moreover, the fear of contracting HIV and AIDS and teenage pregnancy acted as a deterrent with regard to some girls participating in risky sexual behaviours. The results of this research also show that parents, teachers and the surrounding school community fail to implement interventions which aim to protect young girls from all forms of gender violence. Thus, the gendered nature of girls’ vulnerability to gender violence manifests through the abuse of power by boys in school. This study found that girls are victimised both within and outside the school. It appears that boys are exempt from multiple forms of gender inequalities and sexual violence that girls are subjected to in school. This research recommends that collaboration between schools, parents and the private sector should be encouraged so that girls’ vulnerability to gender violence can be addressed. In addition, this research advocates for long term intervention plans to protect young girls against all forms of oppression in schools.