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17 August 2017

HSRC looks at how young people experience their world

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Pretoria, Tuesday 17 August 2017 – As part of understanding how young people experience their worlds which will influence the appropriate social interventions, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) has used the photovoice research technique in its work with young people in Sweetwaters, KZN.

Some of the photographs and narratives obtained during the study involving both male and female young people will be exhibited at the Caluza Sport Ground at Sweetwaters, KZN on Saturday 19 August 2017 at 10h00.

The HSRC’s Sweetwaters office used the photovoice research method since it is considered very effective when undertaking community based research. The process combines photography and narrative tools in order to promote discussion about important issues.

The study aimed to develop a deeper understanding of the beliefs and aspirations young South Africans from Sweetwaters, a peri-urban community in KwaZulu-Natal, hold about their place in the world and how this influences their health behaviours and risk assessments.

Of particular interest was how young people conceptualise, frame and negotiate their risk for HIV infection within the context of other social factors including poverty, unemployment, gender-based inequality, and drug/alcohol use.

This qualitative study involved the participation of 68 male and female adolescents between 12 and 18 years old. The young people participated in the photovoice activity and focus group discussions.  A further 43 adolescents aged 15-18 where interviewed to get an understanding of their experiences and perspectives of living in their community.

According to the project leader, Dr Alastair van Heerden, the research team sought to develop a deeper understanding of the beliefs and aspirations of young people in this community and how this influences their health behaviors and risk assessments.

“This exhibition aims to prioritise the voice of the youth in the Sweetwaters community in the hopes of empowering them to fulfil the potential of such projects to ‘ignite social change’,” he added.

Pictures on display at the event have been chosen with a view to providing a balanced representation of the body as a whole, allowing viewers a glimpse into the harsh realities faced by these young men and women on a daily basis.

Moreover, space has been left to show the prominence of hope and aspiration, with an emphasis on the display of a profound resilience. For the upcoming community exhibition, organisers are expecting the members of the Vulindlela community to come and experience living in the community through the “eyes” or viewpoint of the adolescents who were part of the study.

Media is invited as follows:

Date                            Saturday 19 August 2017

Time                            10h00

Venue                         Caluza Sport Ground, Pietermaritzburg, KZN

Notes to the Editor

About photovoice research

Photovoice is a participatory action research strategy developed initially by health promotion researchers, Caroline Wang and May Ann Burris in the 1990s. It has characteristically been used in research involving marginalised communities that are left underrepresented and silenced in the political arena.

Photography is combined with other largely ethnographic techniques, such as critical dialogue and experiential knowledge to encourage participants to speak to and to reflect on social concerns faced by their communities in order to ignite social change. The photovoice methodology aims to generate social awareness among stakeholders and policy makers, and in so doing force an engagement with the concerns of the community.

In this type of research participants are co-researchers because they take the photographs and interpret their meaning for the researchers. This differs fundamentally from traditional research where the power often lies solely with the researcher.

About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

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For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Manusha Pillai

Mobile:  082 389 3587


Adziliwi Nematandani

Mobile: 082 765 9191


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