Insecurity and uncertainty: Marginalised youth living rights in fragile and conflict affected situations in Nepal and Ethiopia

  • Johnson, Vicky (PI)
  • West, Andrew (CoI)
  • Gosmann, Signe (CoI)
  • Church, Andrew (CoI)
  • Erickson, Mark (CoI)
  • Millican, Juliet (CoI)
  • Getu, Melese (CoI)
  • Ahmed, Amid (CoI)
  • Getachew, Milki (CoI)
  • Tuladhar, Sumon Kamal (PI)
  • Neupane, Sabitra (CoI)
  • Shrestha, Shubhendra Man (CoI)

Project Details


YOUR World Research – Insecurity and uncertainty: Marginalised youth living rights in fragile and conflict affected situations in Nepal and Ethiopia

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)/Department for International Development (DFID) Poverty Fund funded research into new knowledge about youth understandings of uncertainty, violence, poverty and rights in post-conflict and fragile environments in Ethiopia and Nepal.

Led by Vicky Johnson (initially at the University of Brighton and then at Goldsmiths, University of London), with researchers from Goldsmiths and the University of Brighton, the research provided insights into how to support and sustain pathways out of poverty for street connected and marginalised youth.

The overall aim of the research was to generate new knowledge about how marginalised youth perceive, navigate, negotiate and respond to uncertainty and how this may affect their rights and pathways out of poverty in impoverished fragile and conflict affected communities, which may also be prone to natural disasters.

The relationship between poverty and uncertainty will be examined in Ethiopia and Nepal in partnership with CHADET and ActionAid Nepal, organisations that have demonstrated their local expertise in working with the most marginalised children and youth on poverty, rights and participation.

Dr Vicky Johnson utilised her strong working relationships with Ethiopian and Nepalese partners, and knowledge of national contexts, to lead the co-constructed research process and international capacity building. The research was co-constructed with academics and practitioners internationally: Dr Melese Getu from the University of Addis Ababa led the Ethiopian team and Sumon Kamal Tuladhar from the University of Tribhuvan, Nepal led the Nepalese team.

National Youth Seminars were held in Ethiopia and Nepal in Feb/March 2019.

An International Seminar on findings and impact was held at Goldsmiths in May 2019.

The research project objectives were:
> scrutinise how uncertainty is perceived to affect pathways out of poverty from the perspectives of marginalised youth
> examine violence, vulnerability, risk and resilience in the complex lives of young men and women, and young people who are genderfluid, including understanding how identities and notions of autonomy and belonging are developed
> analyse youth agency in dealing with uncertainty and insecurity, their awareness of and access to their rights, and their migration behaviours
> inform and change policy discourses and practices concerning peace-building, community development and education using an improved understanding of youth uncertainty, intergenerational dynamics and changing cultural and social norms

Research participants
The age range to be researched (15-24 years) is a crucial age in which people may form lifelong values and relationships. The impact of uncertainty at this stage can, therefore, have long lasting consequences on experiences of poverty.

Through working with 1,000 youth and 320 adults and 80 key stakeholders, the international research team will analyse how thinking and strategies differ between genders and generations. In each country, 250 detailed case studies will be collected to provide stories from young men, women and youth of the third gender, aged 15-24 years, which will help to understand how marginalised youth experiences of poverty, and strategies in the face of uncertainty, change with intersecting aspects ethnicity, caste, religion, disability, education and socio-economic status.

Research locations
Nepal and Ethiopia both remain among the poorest countries in the world. Both have been affected by conflict, migration and environmental fragility. Three research locations in each country have been selected on the basis of diversity in terms of rural/urban, religion and ethnic groups, poverty and fragility due to conflict and recent environmental disaster.

Research sites
In Ethiopia:
> Addis Ketema, in Addis Ababa (urban)
> Hetosa, Oromia region (rural)
> Fogera, Amhara region – (urban and rural)

In Nepal:
> Kathmandu Valley (urban)
> Sindhupalchowk District (rural)
> Kapilbastu District– (urban and rural)

Insecurity and uncertainty: Marginalised youth living rights in fragile and conflict affected situations in Nepal and Ethiopia Funded by ESRC/DFID Poverty Alleviation Fund [ES/N014391/1 and ES/N014391/2]

Partners for Ethiopia
> CHADET - Director Anannia Admassu Sahle
> School of Social Work, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
> ChildHope UK - Director Jill Healey

Partners for Nepal
> ActionAid Nepal – Director Sujeeta Mathema
> Research Centre for Education and Innovation Development (CERID), Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Key findings

YOUR World Research Impact

YOUR World Research is youth-centred research that uses Johnson’s (2011, 2017) Change-scape framework that starts from the perspectives and ideas of youth, taking into account their developing, multiple and shifting identities and their intersecting experiences of structural inequalities and inclusion.

It has at its heart the concept that youth are agents of change. Therefore, in addition to their lives being affected by their physical, cultural and political environments, they are also important actors in influencing their contexts. In order for young people’s ideas and evidence to be listened to, processes of research, evaluation and intervention need to include mechanisms that help us listen to youth.

The project benefitted from National and International Reference Groups and advisers. The team continues to work with adults in communities, service providers and policy makers in dialogue with youth and will be holding National Youth Seminars with line Ministries and partner NGOs in both countries.

Although government definitions of uncertainty incorporate ethnicity/ caste, poverty and location, YOUR World Research has been working with youth on their definitions of marginalisation and vulnerability. For example, experiences of abuse in families or worsening environmental fragility and conflict can lead to some young people encountering exclusion and rejection within communities. Their developing identities and how they experience structural inequalities, for example with regard to their gender, sexuality, religion or family dynamics, lead to youth leaving home to live in street situations or to migrate to cities or internationally.

By regarding youth as experts in their lives the team understood how some young people embrace uncertainty to find hope. Their certainty is persistent poverty and insecurity. Some from environmentally fragile earthquake affected and drought prone rural areas face increasingly severe difficulties in subsistence farming or finding local paid employment to help provide for their families. Others, especially rural girls, want to escape expectations of early marriage. Many want to break with family expectations and social norms in their communities and move to uncertain situations and seek new social bonds to gain a sense of belonging. Many young people have been migrating to urban centres and when they still find poverty, insecurity, lack of social status or respect, they migrate internationally to seek different futures.

See links for full reports from the project.
Short titleYOUR World
Effective start/end date1/07/1631/05/19


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