Contributors are invited to write on the topic above from either a research or an activism perspective. Abstracts and contributions must be written in English and in a style accessible to a wide audience. Please submit abstracts to or

No later than 5th December 2016

GUEST EDITORS: Relebohile Moletsane and Linda Theron

Conceptual Rationale:

Sexual violence and coercive sex are pressing concerns for our society as a whole and are exacerbated by the conservative gender regimes and practices that make up the social ecologies in which girls and young women negotiate their lives. For example, in many communities, such social ecologies are frequently characterised by certain customary practices, particularly the taboos relating to discussing sex and sexual activity across generations. This often works to intensify the violence girls and young women may experience. It also silences dialogue and debate that could socialise young boys to respect women’s bodies and ultimately prevent the perpetration of violence in families and communities. Thus, women are left to negotiate their lives in the context of this violence without the necessary normative social intervention.

Research on women who succeed in negotiating their lives and overcoming the negative impacts of violence, including intimate partner violence and sexual violence has often used ‘resilience’ as a concept to explain the phenomenon (Hyland, 2014). Resilience has traditionally been defined from either a narrow psychological perspective or a sociological viewpoint. From a psychological perspective, resilience was understood to mean an individual’s personality traits and capacity to ‘bounce back’ in the face of adversity, such as sexual violence. From a sociological perspective, the individual’s personal agency and resistance to adversity was emphasized (Shaik and Kauppi, 2010). Either way, in the context of sexual violence, these perspectives tend to be individualistic and to put the burden for survival and success on the victims, who in many cases is the woman. This might be taken to suggest that victims of violence bear the responsibility for survival and that failure to ‘bounce back’ is due to their poor personality traits or lack of agency (see for example, Kawarazuka et al., 2016).

In an attempt to remove the burden of responsibility from the individual, resilience researchers have advocated an ecological systems approach and explained resilience as a co-produced process of positive adjustment (Cicchetti, 2013; Masten, 2014; Panter-Brick, 2015; Rutter, 2012; Ungar, 2015). These co-producers are individuals (e.g., young women) as well as the social ecological stakeholders and legacies with which individuals interact (e.g., families, peers, teachers and other service providers, cultural capital, or resilience-enabling policy). To this end, Michael Ungar (2008) conceptualised resilience as “the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to resources that sustain wellbeing, the capacity of individuals’ physical and social ecologies to provide these resources and the capacity of individuals and their families and communities to negotiate culturally meaningful ways for resources to be shared” (pp22-23).

Alongside these richer or more inclusive concpetualizations of resilience, critiques of the ecological perspective on resilience and its silence on gender are emerging. For example, Kawarazuka et al (2016) argue that analysis informed by gender and those premised on resilience are epistemologically and methodologically different. The “central analytical impulse of gender analysis is one of critique – in which inequality is a central trope and where the case built is one that requires redress – whereas the central analytical impulse of resilience analysis is one of complex causal explanation – in which the modelling of coupled systems in terms of critical factors, dynamics and thresholds is a central trope and where the case built is one that predicts adaptation or transformation and calls for action to trigger, facilitate or avoid this” (p.11). Thus, to infuse a gender analysis into efforts towards building resilience necessarily requires an exploration of the ways in which individuals (young women and girls for example) negotiate their lives in the context of sexual violence, and the ways in which they access resources or assets through the (interdependent) social relations with significant others in families and communities.

This issue of Agenda aims to foreground the ways in which transforming the social ecologies characterised by unequal gender norms, that make it possible for sexual violence to occur, might help build resilience among girls and young women in the context of extreme levels of violence that they encounter in families, communities (rural and urban), institutions, the workplace and the streets. The issue will address, among others, such questions as:

• How do social ecologies enable / constrain the resilience of girls and young women in the context of sexual violence?
• How might resilience be a gendered process?
• What gender-specific resources can be leveraged to champion the resilience of girls and young women challenged by sexual violence?
• What strategies are needed to transform the social ecologies that constrain girls’ and young women’s resilience against sexual violence in families and communities?
• How might a gender and/or feminist lens deepen our understanding of sexual violence and its links to the social ecologies that prevail in families and communities and in identifying and developing strategies for building resilience among girls and young women?
Cicchetti, D. (2013). Annual research review: Resilient functioning in maltreated children-past, present and future perspectives. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54, 402-422.
Hyland, D.L. (2014). Constructing safer lives: Women who display resilience in responding to intimate-partner violence (IPV). Counselor Education Master’s Theses. Paper 171.
Kawarazuka, N., Locke, C., McDougall, C., Kantor, P. & Morgan, M. (2016). Bringing Gender Analysis and Resilience Analysis Together in Small Scale Fisheries Research: Challenges and Opportunities, DEV Working Paper 53 Working Paper Series, The School of International Development, University of East Anglia, UK.
Masten, A. S. (2014). Ordinary magic. Resilience in development. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Panter-Brick, C. (2015). Culture and resilience: Next steps for theory and practice. In L. C. Theron., L. Liebenberg &M.Ungar (Eds.), Youth resilience and culture: Commonalities and complexities (pp. 233-244). Dordrecht, NL: Springer.
Rutter, M. (2012). Resilience: Causal pathways and social ecology. In M. Ungar (Ed.), The social ecology of resilience (pp. 33-42). New York, NY: Springer.

Shaikh, A. &Kauppi, C. (2010). Deconstructing Resilience: Myriad Conceptualizations and Interpretations. International Journal of Arts and Sciences, 3(15), 155 – 176.
Ungar, M. (2008). Putting resilience theory into action: Five principles for intervention. In L. Liebenberg & M. Ungar (Eds.). Resilience in action: Working with youth across cultures and contexts. Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.Ungar, M. (2015). Practitioner review: Diagnosing childhood resilience – a systemic approach to the diagnosis of adaptation in adverse social and physical ecologies. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,56(1), 4-17. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12306
Contributions are accepted in any form, prose (both theoretical and practical), poetry, narrative, interviews, and visual arts.