A magnifying glass and a fine-tooth comb: understanding girls’ and young women’s sexual vulnerability

Research with regard to the sexuality of adolescent girls and young women continues to suggest new approaches for understanding the sexual risks experienced by girls and
young women in Southern Africa. Whilst this knowledge base reveals that young women’s life conditions and experiences are sub-optimal, some sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) interventions are designed and delivered with unchecked assumptions.

This monograph addresses some of the assumptions underpinning adolescent girls’ and young women’s vulnerability that could be considered when designing and delivering SRHR interventions. The discussion first looks back to historical eras that contributed to current gender inequalities in Southern Africa. This history locates women’s sexual vulnerability in the context of failed capitalist economies, tailor-made education systems and religious and moral influences that inform women’s lived realities of gender and racial inequality.

The main discussion introduces and examines five assumptions that appear to underpin sequential model interventions aimed at protecting adolescent girls and young women (AG&YW) against negative outcomes such as early and unwanted pregnancy and HIV infection. The discussion concludes with an invitation to the reader to examine interventions with a fine-tooth comb, to reveal and interrogate underlying assumptions, and to intervene at the level of root causes of the problems that adolescents and young women face.

The monograph should be useful for researchers, interventionists, policymakers and funders of SRHR interventions.

View it here.

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