Networks for Change and Well-being: "From the Ground Up" Policy-making to Address Sexual Violence against Girls

Incidents of sexual violence against girls and young women are finally receiving global media coverage. Media reportss and public condemnation have broken the silence on this troubling social issue, but awareness is not enough. This project will provide evidence to help transform the policy and program landscape for girls' safety and security in South Africa and Canada.

New approaches to sharing knowledge
The project team will examine how knowledge about sexual assault is co-created by girls and young women in different settings. The researchers will investigate innovative approaches to sharing information. The project's methodology draws on approaches to learning "from the ground up," which include digital storytelling, participatory video, cellphilms (films made with cell phones), drawing and mapping, community radio, and social media. It also builds on youth-led media making, community-based research, participatory action research, research as a form of intervention, and research as a way to generate social change.

Youth leadership for policy change
This pioneering initiative seeks to positively impact the lives of current and future generations of girls and young women. In different locations and across two countries, the research will examine how youth-led media influences community practitioners and policymakers. It aims to shift the boundaries of knowledge production and inform policy change.

Specific activities include:
-Conduct research into the role girls can play to inform the study and eradication of sexual violence;
-Analyze the impact of participatory policy-making;
-Advance understanding of how digital and social media tools can be used in participatory research;
-Develop new communication approaches to prevent and address sexual violence;
-Train and support girl-focused solutions;
-Engage policymakers in girl-led dialogues;
-Create a transnational platform for raising awareness and advocacy;
-Support seven students (post-doctoral, PhD, and master's) from South Africa to work with their Canadian peers; and
-Organize two training institutes for graduate students in participatory policy-making and digital and social media.

Project participants
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) and McGill University (Canada) are leading this international and interdisciplinary partnership. The project brings together universities, government agencies, and community-based organizations.

The International Partnerships for Sustainable Societies program is funding the project. The South African team is largely supported by IDRC. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is providing support to the Canadian team.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


72 months

IDRC Officer

David O'Brien

Total funding

CA$ 2,400,000


South Africa, Canada


International Partnerships for Sustainable Societies

Project Leader

Relebohile Moletsane

Project Leader

Philisiwe Shange


University of KwaZulu-Natal

Institution Country

South Africa

Institution Website