Empowering young people in advocacy for transformation: A photovoice exploration of safe and unsafe spaces on a university campus
Masuku, Michelle Paidamwoyo
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Globally and locally, research conducted with young people about safety on university campuses focuses primarily on risk and danger, particularly sexual danger. In this body of scholarship, the voices of young people are often elided. Our study intends to address both of these concerns, firstly by foregrounding the voices of students themselves through a photovoice method, and secondly by emphasising the ways in which safe and unsafe spaces are mediated by group and social identities. The aim of the study was to explore how students' perceptions of safe and unsafe places are mediated by group and social identities. A group of third-year students at an urban South African university used photovoice, a methodology that encourages participation and empowerment of young people in transforming their communities, to conduct a study identifying and photographing spaces they perceived safe and unsafe in and around campus. Narratives explained these photographs. The paper draws from this project, whose findings show that the construction of safety on campus is mediated by different factors of marginality within the student body including gender, class, citizenship and race among others. These findings are not only significant in raising concern about issues of safety on campus, but they also draw the attention of university stakeholders to these concerns, giving students a voice to be agents of transformation.