Empowering girls to claim rights? Non-formal education and the 'Stop the Violence' campaign in Kenya

Mary Cobbett-Ondiek

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The thesis explores the impact of the ‘Voices Against Violence’ curriculum, a non-formal education programme in Kenya, aiming to enable girls to claim rights to be free from violence. Impact is explored at two levels: girls’ internal worlds (sense of self, identity, beliefs about gender and rights) and girls’ external worlds (ability to claim rights and exercise empowerment). The research was funded by an ESRC collaborative award in partnership with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), who developed the Voices Against Violence curriculum.

The research was carried out in two locations in Kenya. In Kisumu, the curriculum was implemented in a government primary school and 28 girls participated. In Kibera, one of Nairobi’s large informal settlements, the curriculum was implemented in a vocational training centre with 15 adolescent girls and young women. A range of qualitative methods including participatory activities, interviewing and ethnographic observations were used to understand the girls’ changing constructions of gender and violence, their performances of gender and their abilities to claim rights. While many similar projects have focused on pre and post project data, this study is original in its capturing of rich ethnographic observations of the curriculum sessions, generating deeper insight into processes of change and contestation.

At the level of girls’ internal worlds, the data shows changes, continuities and contradictions in the way girls spoke about gender and violence before and after the curriculum. Whether internal change led to the ability to claim rights, depended less on the quality of what was taught, than on the wider spaces they found themselves in and the differing institutional environments the micro-projects were embedded in. Resultingly, the thesis speaks to debates about the institutional structures of NGOs alongside those on transformative education and violence prevention.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Brickell, Katherine, Supervisor
  • Willis, Katie, Advisor
Award date18 May 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


  • girls, violence, education, Kenya

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