Girls' reproductive health matters are an important factor in their equal participation in educational settings. However, many girls worldwide still face challenges to participating fully in education because of the lack of supportive structures for their health needs. This paper uses autoethnographic writing to highlight some of the challenges that girls meet in school because of menstruation. It also discusses how a teacher's lived experiences of girlhood can change how she practises her teacher-hood in relation to girls' reproductive health. I argue that teachers' lived experiences are an invaluable resource in curricula- and policy-making procedures that are formulated to better recognize the particular concerns of girls and young women.
Challenges for the Female Body in Education
The Impacts of a Water Crisis on Girls' Sexual Health in Semi-urban Cameroon
Jennifer A. Thompson, Fidelis Folifac and Susan J. Gaskin
In sub-Saharan Africa, girls' daily household chores often involve fetching water for their households. This article addresses the impact of uncertain water access in semi-urban Cameroon given the problems of rapid urbanization and increasing demands for water. A school competition engaged youth and key water sector actors in a dialogue about the water crisis in Buea town, and this resulted in the publication of the water distribution schedule. The event also drew attention to the gendered implications of the crisis in relation to girls' sexual health. Our analysis suggests that girls fetching water face multiple layers of risk that include gender-based violence and blame resulting from the gendered stigma attached to young people's behavior—particularly that of girls. All this serves to increase the moral panic surrounding youth sexualities. We explicitly use the term sexualities (plural) here to recognize the multiple ways in which sexualities may be expressed, constructed and experienced (Arnfred 2005). This research points to the dire need to better understand and consider within water management strategies how girls cope with and confront these risks.
In the call for articles for this special issue on girls’ health, we highlighted that “[g]irls’ health is an ongoing and evolving issue with ties that go beyond medical analyses to include a wide array of social, educational, political, and environmental discourses (among others!).” Th at a number of different perspectives might contribute to or strengthen the interdisciplinary focus of an issue as crucial as girls’ health was important to me as guest editor. Th is issue demonstrates that the relationship of girlhood to health—sexual health, in particular—is of critical concern to us all. It is an area full of challenges and barriers, most of them, as is evident in this issue, understood and often expressed by girls themselves. The articles presented here point to the many perspectives from which to approach this topic. Girls’ sexual health is linked to an array of intersecting issues including the pedagogical influences of popular romance literature; the ways in which girls use blogs to construct counter narratives about their sexual identity; how girls’ increased inclusion in citizenship discourses can increase their capacity to address sexual objectification; what girls do to negotiate power within their heterosexual relationships; how barriers to water access in Africa can lead to the awareness of the risks—which range from being perceived to be promiscuous to being raped—that young women face; as well as how the (mis)management of menstruation can affect girls’ education. This issue points to the global and local specifics of sexual health, and to health more generally. Th e concerns discussed here are geographically wide-ranging: Cameroon, Lesotho, Australia, the United States, and Canada provide the settings—some urban and others rural. Th e authors present a wide range of methodologies from which they explore girls’ health: literary analysis; autoethnography; and participatory methods such as digital storytelling, mediamaking, listening to what young people have to say in various research paradigms, blogging, and photovoice.
The sexualization of the female body in contemporary media has created considerable anxiety about its impact on girls. Much of the resulting research focuses on the influence of visual media on body image and the flow-on effects for girls' health. Rather less attention is paid to the pedagogical role of popular romance fiction in teaching girls about their sexuality. Given the pronounced increase in eroticized fiction for girls over the past decade, this is a significant oversight. This article applies Hakim's (2010) concept of erotic capital to two chick lit novels for girls. The elements of erotic capital—assets additional to economic, cultural and social capital—are used to explore the lessons these novels teach about girl sexual subjectivities and sociality in a sexualized culture.
Digital Storytelling as a Feminist Public Health Approach
Aline C. Gubrium and Gloria T. Difulvio
Strategies designed to address community health needs, and those of disadvantaged girls in particular, are more likely to be successful in supporting health and wellbeing if a humanistic perspective is taken. A humanistic health perspective should consider broader participant concerns, including those that are socially informed. A feminist perspective on knowledge production and a corresponding narrative approach—digital storytelling—has the potential for doing so in the field of community health and in social research efforts. We begin by reviewing a feminist perspective on knowledge development and present digital storytelling as an approach undergirded by this perspective. We then present examples of two digital stories produced by adolescent girls during a pilot community-based participatory project called A Girl in the World which focused on what it actually means to be girls in the world, and conclude that digital storytelling has the potential to provide a more holistic research platform for investigating girls' health.
This article addresses the invisibility of teenage girls within and outside of feminist theory and citizenship studies from the perspective of girlhood studies. Most often addressed as individuals in need of protection, girls and adolescent females are seldom considered political citizen-subjects. In addition, because they do not fit within existing frameworks of analysis, some of their citizenship practices, including mediamaking, are not acknowledged as forms of political agentivity or political participation. Drawing on my past and current research with Francophone teenage girls in Canada, I highlight and problematize this denial in a way that underlines the need for girlhood studies to politicize its vocabulary so that teenage girls can become part of us rather than women-to-become in feminist citizenship studies and others areas of inquiry in which youth citizenship is being re-theorized. I argue that such politicization broadens what girls' health entails to include their political healthiness.
In the Shadow of War
Nikki van der Gaag, Sarah Henriks and Feyi Rodway
Conflict affects girls differently from boys—their rights are ignored, their responsibilities changed, and their lives altered forever by war. Girls face discrimination on at least two counts: because they are young and because they are female. We focus here on the changing nature of war and conflict and what this means for girls' health, economic well-being, physical security and protection, and also for their resilience and empowerment. We examine how girls are uniquely affected by, and respond to, conflict, its build-up and its aftermath. We assess the role of the institutions that have a duty to protect and support girls in conflict-affected states, and explore the reasons why policy actors do not take girls into account in their responses to violent conflict. We outline recommendations for action in terms of girls' education, harnessing girls' resilience and encouraging their empowerment.