A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa
the levels of abstraction increased, so the links with SEA became increasingly clear.
Finally, perhaps the biggest change that was introduced in this project was the fact that the testimonies were intended from the beginning to be used for advocacy purposes as well as to develop new knowledge – indeed these two aspects of the work have been seen as complementary and indissoluble. A previous research report raised the question of whether it would ever be possible for research to be genuinely appropriated by those who supplied their knowledge to the researchers:
‘…for all the strength that oral testimony and other ‘participatory’ methods have demonstrated, this project has been in essence an extractive process.…How could the process have been appropriated by the communities and individuals which generated the information? In focusing analysis on our research questions, and in preparing reports which discarded extraneous material and quoted selectively, have we distorted the voices of the respondents? The methodology of OT as a developmental tool is still in need of elaboration.’ (El-Bushra and Sahl 2005:142)
The dilemma has not been resolved. In this research, the interview process was initiated and managed by the project, the interview material was treated and dissected by the researchers, and it was then incorporated into a book destined for an audience in the communities, and policy makers at national and international levels. Some progress has been made in ‘giving voice to the voiceless’, in several ways. Firstly, in all three countries, the research teams were made up of both young people and adults, and the young people included representatives of the youth citizenship activists and the violated girls who were the subject of the research. This innovation was viewed as a success from the point of view of research effectiveness: all the team leaders remarked that the young researchers who had taken part had facilitated the process, both by enhancing the confidence of the interviewees, and by rendering the analysis more reliable. However, in addition to that, it also made some contribution to the transfer of research skills to young people.
Secondly, the complete texts of five selected testimonies (albeit with minor edits for clarity’s sake) are presented as a major component of this book. In this way we hope that readers will gain a sense of being in the presence of a ‘real live’ person rather than a set of dismembered quotations. Thirdly, the descriptions of their lives given to us by the young people who contributed to the project have directly informed the arguments for change presented in chapter one. They have demonstrated to the ‘Restoring Peace Project’ partners that both the local and the international communities bear a responsibility to do more to assist young people affected by conflict and that the largest part of the solutions that are being found to their problems are emerging from young people’s own initiative, resilience and creativity. Conveying this message – their message – is the main purpose of this book.