Young people as researchers
Written by: Churchill Shakim
TAMASHA has now carried out a series of participatory researches with young people as the principal researchers, trained and backed up by experienced TAMASHA researchers. These include researches into vulnerabilities of adolescent girls in Dar es Salaam and Southern Tanzania, climate change and migration, schoolchildren living with HIV, the situation of young female bar workers and a survey of social services and amenities from a youth perspective.
Our experience of working with young people as researchers has shown that:
- Young people are excellent researchers, particularly for qualitative research but also carrying out major surveys
- When researching youth to youth, they are able to bring out issues that other researchers do not and therefore they make it possible to carry out a more in depth analysis of the issues they were researching
- The researches give voices to young people. Through research youth to youth, young people express themselves more openly and their issues are able to reach the leaders of their communities and districts. In one case (the research into multiple vulnerabilities of adolescent girls in Dar es Salaam) their voices and findings led to a change in global thinking on issues of protection of girls in their communities. In another case, they were able to question effectively, at regional (Eastern and Southern Africa) and global level some of the primary assumptions of adults working with vulnerable children.
- The fact that these young people are researchers affects their position in the community as they come to be accepted as community resources. They are asked to become trainers in the community and their opinions are valued
- This contributes to a change in community attitudes towards young people and enables them to become more active in community governance. This is particularly important in societies which still favour the elders and believe that young people have little to contribute. The researchers demonstrate in practice how much they do have to give.
- Since such research is carried out at community level by young researchers from their communities, it reinforces a bottom up approach to young people’s involvement in governance, rather than the usually more privileged who constitute national youth councils etc.
However, working with young people in this way also shows that such acceptance of the role of young people is not always so acceptable to different powers that be. Research is one way for young people to negotiate a stronger position for themselves and leads to greater activism by them.