A Comparative Study of Gender Construction and its Impact on Healthy Relationships within English and Ghanaian Schools.

What are young peoples views on the constructions of gender within the school environment? How do these manifest themselves in everyday interactions with teachers and peers? This research seeks to explore the construction of gender within schools and its implications for forming healthy relationships and gender-based violence among young people in England and Ghana.

Gender is historically conceptualised in terms of the binary concept of feminine/masculine and constructed through an active and on-going process of socialisation (e.g., Butler 2011; Connell and Pease 2014). Schools are deemed one of the major platforms for conveying social knowledge and attitudes to children and young people, and may serve both as sites for construction of gender stereotypes and for enabling social change (Lee and Collins 2008; Nonaka et al, 2012). Therefore, it is important to consider how gender is constructed in everyday interactions within schools as this can be a vehicle for the formation of healthy relationships, and prevention of gender-based violence which, if not addressed, can lead to anxiety and depression among YP (DoE, 2021).

What did the project involve? 

Underpinning this research project is the evidenced link between constructions of gender, healthy relationships, and their implications for gender- based violence.

Whilst a lot of research has focused on changes in the understandings of gender in Western societies, recent research has also shown continuity in constructions of gender amongst young people. Therefore in comparing the UK with Ghana, a context in which more rigid notions of gender are widely accepted to exist amongst both adults and children, this research seeks to illuminate the persistence of rigid socialisation processes across contexts and help to explain why gender-based violence figures are high globally.

With the young people, the team coproduced a creative output based on the key questions underpinning this research. This output was coproduced through a series of 10 workshops with art being used as a mechanism to stimulate reflection and discussion.

The workshops sought to:

  1. Explore what methodologies young people would find suitable to engage them in the dialogue.
  2. Be a platform for the young people to share their views of how gender is constructed within the school settings and how it manifests itself in behaviours involving staff and pupils.
  3. Open up a dialogue with the young people about their views on gender-based violence.
  4. Explore how young people in two different cultural, social and economic contexts make meaning of this relationship between constructions of gender and gender-based violence.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Nadia Aghtaie (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol) has extensive research expertise in the areas of Gender based violence amongst young people and adults and has conducted collaborative and co-produced research within national and international contexts.
  • Afua Twum-Danso Imoh (School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol) has expertise in constructions of childhood, children’s rights, child rearing and socialization practices focusing on primarily Ghana. Additionally, Afua has been leading discussions which seek to challenge the binary between the global north and south as it relates to childhood studies.
  • Judi Kidger (Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol) has several years’ experience researching school-based interventions to improve young people’s mental health, including recent work undertaking participatory action research with a view to improving school culture and mental health outcomes.
  • Georgina Yaa Oduro (University of Cape Coast) has worked extensively with young people on very sensitive topics including gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and street youth.
  • Dorothy Takyiakwaa (University of Cape Coast) has experience in qualitative research, gender based violence and childhood studies.
  • Lucy Condon (NIHR ARC West YPAG Facilitator) will assist with the recruitment of young people in England.
  • Young people from Bristol Generation R Young People’s Advisory Group and youth aged 13 – 19 in Ghana.
  • Jess Bunyan and Will Taylor from Rising Arts Agency.
  • Local Artists from Playpluzz Production Team (University of Cape Coast).

What were the results?

The findings from this project fed into a larger grant application, looking at gender conceptualisation within the education system and its implication for mental health and gender-based violence in the Global North and Global South.

Find out more about this project in their blogpost: A study of gender construction, healthy relationships and gender-based violence in England & Ghana: An interdisciplinary participatory research with Young Advisors (13-18) 

Furthermore, a member of the Young People’s Advisory Group wrote a short blog on their experience with this project “I will use these valuable skills for the rest of my life” – ARC West