Young people are often the largest group in countries affected by fragility and conflict, yet there remains an underestimation and lack of clarity of their experiences and needs. Fragile and conflict-affected states are often evidence a complex relationship between youth and the state, as young people need to navigate both state and non-state actors. As evidenced by the case studies in Plan International’s newly launched report: Youth actions in fragile settings, young women and young men experience conflict and fragile states differently, and act as peacebuilders in both formal and informal processes in different age and gender sensitive ways.
Plan International’s report is based on qualitative research carried out by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in Myanmar, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. These countries have different histories of conflict and experiences of fragility in more than one dimension. The study involved a unique component of youth-led research as youth researchers joined the team in each country. Their reflections on their encounters with other youth and on the research process have enriched the findings.
The report’s findings have highlighted that gender strongly shapes experiences of fragility and forms of everyday youth action in building peace. For instance, while patriarchal norms continue to limit the engagement of young women and girls, the study found evidence suggesting generational shifts and attitudinal change are happening in some places and spheres. Where initiatives are specifically set up to address issues affecting young women and girls, these initiatives are more mindful of the social norms and barriers that limit the participation of young women and are thus more likely to involve them. Yet not all youth initiatives are inclusive: they may even reproduce the social norms and power dynamics that sustain gender inequality, thus failing to incorporate the needs of women and girls.