Promoting inclusive policies and approaches to address youth networks of violence in South Africa
In South Africa, a history of apartheid policies, concentrated poverty, social deprivation, and other risk factors related to violence within particular areas have created conditions that exacerbate exclusion, inequality, and poverty, especially among youth. This has led to disillusionment and an increased propensity towards violence by youth, manifested by the number of youth joining gangs. Youth continue to join gangs as alternative sources of identity and belonging, or as safety valves for socio-economic vulnerability, among other reasons.
This project, implemented by the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, aims to examine the ways that youth develop and maintain “networks of violence”. This will identify entry points for positively transforming youth behaviour to promote resilience and resistance to violence. The project hypothesizes that in order to effectively intervene in addressing the problem of youth violence, there is a need to examine how youth social networking through ethnicity, religion, friendships, and relationships is at the core of this problem.
Focusing on criminal and gang violence in Cape Town, the study will highlight the scope of youth participation in these networks of violence through the perspectives of both young men and women. The project will examine how social and economic networks are developed and can potentially transform into “networks of violence”. The methodology includes a survey of selected youths, field visits, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and youth biographies. Audiences for the research and the results include youth, local government departments (especially the city council), security organizations, civil society organizations, and community leaders.
The results will inform intervention strategies that can target these networks to promote peace in communities affected by gang violence. To this end, the project will also identify opportunities for youth to resist violence, strengthen strategies of resilience, and strengthen their engagement in prevention efforts and the creation of safer spaces.