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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 20 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

acceptance that parents have the right to chastise their children), or, in extreme cases, superior physical force or weaponry. In our case studies, young people are discriminated against by adults who have statutory authority (such as the police), economic power (e.g. employers, husbands), or the power that attaches to age (for example parents or other guardians).

The ‘power to act’ includes the power to avoid action, i.e. to inflict injustice by turning a blind eye, and by failing to challenge the oppressive behaviour of others. Inaction may indeed be as devastatingly discriminatory as overt actions. For example, the research suggests that the international community is guilty of inaction when it fails to defend the rights of formerly abducted girls in Burundi to qualify for demobilisation privileges. Discrimination becomes an ‘ideology of superiority’ when it is embedded in society in such a way that people can imagine no alternative to it, or see it as natural and unchangeable, or even perhaps divinely ordained, so that even those who are objects of discrimination may accept it as right or unavoidable.

Applying the social exclusion framework is useful for social researchers because it helps to identify the ways in which rights are denied to those who are the objects of discrimination. Moreover, it also helps to identify which duty bearers or institutions hold responsibility for applying and defending these rights. It can therefore lead not only to increased understanding, but also to a range of practical outcomes.

Oral testimony research

Oral testimony (OT) was adopted as the main research method in this project for two main reasons. In the first place, it was considered a fitting strategy for a project (the ‘Restoring Peace Project’) which aims to strengthen the capacities of young people to participate actively in national life, by involving them in all aspects of project design and implementation. The research project aimed for the active participation of young people, both as interviewees and as researchers. OT as a method is designed to give voice to respondents, and this was particularly important for the participants in the ‘Restoring Peace Project’, many of whom felt that their voice had been ignored and suppressed. Secondly, there can be no better source of information about the problems facing young people in conflict situations than young people themselves. Testimonial research, when carried out well, offers full and vivid descriptions of people’s lived realities. This contributes to the legitimacy of research findings, as well as enhancing the potential for developing advocacy on

issues of importance to the respondents.

Oral testimonies are essentially conversations

.

The Panos Institute defines oral

testimony as ‘… the result of free-ranging, open ended interviews around a

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