Resilient black South African girls in contexts of adversity : a participatory visual study
Jefferis, Tamlynn Charmaine
MetadataShow full item record
Resilience refers to a process involving positive outcomes in the face of exposure to significant adversity. The Social Ecology of Resilience Theory outlines four principles that guide how resilience processes are understood and explained, namely, decentrality, complexity, atypicality, and cultural relativity (Ungar, 2011). From this perspective, resilience involves a complex process of culturally-appropriate transactions between individuals and their social ecologies that facilitate positive adjustment. What resilience theory does not sufficiently explain is how culture and gendered ways of living and being inform resilience processes among women and girls (Jordan, 2013). Even less is known about how culture and gendered ways of living shape resilience processes among black South African girls living in rural contexts of structural adversity. Therefore, the purpose of this visual study was to explore why Sesothospeaking South African girls living in rural contexts of structural adversity are resilient. To achieve this aim, sub-aims (detailed below) were developed to answer the research question. This study contains four manuscripts; each addresses a subaim. Using a qualitative synthesis, Manuscript 1 explored the existing understanding of resilience processes among women and girls’ across diverse cultures, and how this understanding reflects universal gendered ways of living and being. The findings revealed that universal gendered ways of living and being such as interdependence, the emotional caretaking of others, and emotional expressivity are evident in resilience processes of women and girls. The universal resilience processes included: emotionally and pragmatically supportive constructive relational contexts in which women and girls received and reciprocated support: agency: and strength-fostering spirituality. Ultimately, emotionally and pragmatically supportive constructive relational contexts, agency and strength-fostering spirituality supported women and girls to adjust well to diverse adversities. Due to limited extant understandings of resilience among black South African girls, it was not clear how applicable Manuscript 1’s findings are to explain their resilience. This then led to Manuscript 2 detailed below. Manuscript 2 employed sophisticated visual methodologies (community-based participatory video, Draw-and-Talk, and Draw-and-Write) to answer how applicable the gendered theory developed in Manuscript 1 was to explaining Sesotho-speaking girls’ resilience. A total of 28 Sesotho-speaking girls living in rural contexts of structural adversity participated. Findings revealed that the universal gendered ways of living and being are evident, but how they play out for Sesotho-speaking girls is informed by their rural context and traditional African culture. Using this I concluded that social ecological action such as assisting girls towards healthy forms of emotional expression, supporting women’s sustained presence in girls’ lives, encouraging father-involvement, and advocating for quality education is crucial to facilitate resilience among Sesotho-speaking girls. In Manuscript 2, the girls only briefly mentioned teachers as supportive of their resilience in their creation of participatory videos. Because of this, in Manuscript 3, I revisited the remaining data to explore if and how teachers, as key members of school-going girls’ social ecology, facilitate their resilience. My focus on teachers related to their prominence in the extant resilience literature. The findings revealed that teachers who promoted resilience among Sesotho-speaking girls were teachers who: were empathic and listened and provided guidance; motivated the girls towards positive futures; and who initiated teacher-girl partnerships. In conclusion, I provided key leverage points to support teachers in their facilitation of girls’ resilience, such as: initiating teacher-learner partnerships; advocating for a changed education landscape; and providing positive feedback. To understand how visual methods can be used to explore and support social ecologies to advocate for girls’ resilience, Manuscript 4 explored the value and challenges of using community-based participatory video to explore resilience among black, school-going, South African girls. In conclusion, community-based participatory video is a powerful visual took that emphasises resilience as a person context exchange, and heightens participants’ awareness of potential supports through the research process. Sophisticated methodologies like community-based participatory video can be used to sensitise girls’ social ecologies to the important role they play in facilitating girls’ resilience. Taken together, these manuscripts confirm the assumptions of the Social Ecology of Resilience Theory (SERT) and Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) that resilience is a gendered process and that constructive relationships are key in promoting resilience among girls. Moreover, this study furthers understandings of the sociocultral and structural determinants of resilience among Sesotho-speaking girls. In my study, meaningful relationships for Sesotho-speaking girls were those that aligned with their traditional African values of interrelatedness. The meaningfulness of relationships was also shaped by the girls’ rural context of structural adversity that meant the girls drew on support by available others which included predominantly women teachers, social workers, and friends/family. In the girls’ accounts of their resilience, the social ecology played a crucial role. My study thus contributes towards the current conversations among resilience researchers which emphasises the importance of social ecologies working to address the adversities that place young people at risk.
- Humanities