Change the world

09/12/2022

“I believe the solutions to social issues are found in the community itself,” says Dr Jane Ndungu, who will graduate with her PhD in Psychology at Nelson Mandela University on 12 December. 
For Jane the discovery of a catalytic component in the participatory intervention design process was a eureka moment. Co-development is the inclusion of participants (for example, adolescents) in the design, implementation, and evaluation of interventions. It is not a new approach but has not been readily used in group-based participatory interventions for adolescents in South Africa. 
 
Jane specialises in co-developing group-based participatory interventions to prevent violence against women and girls. Nelson Mandela University considers gender justice a significant focus area, especially as women constitute 59% of all students at public higher education institutions. The university is also committed to working with communities to co-create solutions to existing social problems. 
 
The use of genuine co-development strategies therefore resonated with Jane as a potentially more effective approach during her studies.
 
With a high prevalence of gang rape, and most first-time rapists being teenage males in their mid-20s, how effective are violence prevention interventions for adolescents?  Current research points to “co-development of interventions” as a potential solution, particularly within the country’s public healthcare system. 
 
The defining moment convincing her that the approach was dynamic and useful was the direct feedback given by the adolescents. 
 
The young people said that interventions designed with their input would be more relevant to them, as they would reflect their lives. Involving them in the intervention design made them feel validated and enhanced their feelings of value in the prevention of violence. 
 
The co-development process also showcased these adolescents’ critical-thinking skills and encouraged reflection on current issues maintaining violence in the society, ultimately urging them to take responsibility for their ways of being.
 
According to Dr Ndungu, when adolescents are ‘’viewed as na├»ve, and either victims or deviants, as risky or at risk, and as vulnerable or resilient’’, exclusion almost seems justified and understandable. If, however, we are to achieve contextualised participatory violence prevention interventions for young people that address the evolving generational challenges, we must involve them in the design, implementation, and evaluation process. 
 
The use of co-development strategies in the design of interventions for young people in South Africa, will not only help us achieve fitting interventions, but will also mould the young people who are beneficiaries of these interventions to be agents of change. This is much needed, given the prevalence of gender-based violence, and a nation already at the tipping point of civil anarchy.
 
“The beneficiaries of interventions have the capacity to generate solutions to curb the drivers of violence. Ours, as researchers, is to facilitate discussions and document the outcomes.”
 
‘’Societies free of gender-based violence do not exist, and South Africa is no exception,’’ stated SaferSpaces, in a recent healthcare report. South Africa is also known as the “Rape Capital of the World” – clearly, something drastic needs to change in preventing violence our society. 
 
Jane has continued using this approach in her research at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) where she is currently undertaking a study focused on co-developing an intimate partner violence intervention with young refugees in Durban, South Africa, under the mentorship of Professor Rachel Jewkes (SAMRC), Dr Andrew Gibbs (Exeter) and Dr Jenevieve Mannell (UCL). 

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160
elma.dekoker@mandela.ac.za