Youth Uncertainty Rights World Research


Insecurity and uncertainty: Marginalised youth living rights in fragile and conflict affected situations in Nepal and Ethiopia Funded by ESRC/DFID Poverty Alleviation Fund [ES/N014391/1 and ES/N014391/2]

Photo of a full moon over the city of Kathmandu
Full moon over Kathmandu, Nepal

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)/Department for International Development (DFID) Poverty Fund is funding research into new knowledge about youth understandings of uncertainty, violence, poverty and rights in post-conflict and fragile environments in Ethiopia and Nepal (£498,502). The research will provide insights into how to support and sustain pathways out of poverty for street connected and marginalised youth.

The overall aim of the research is to generate new knowledge about how marginalised youth perceive, navigate, negotiate and respond to uncertainty and how this may affect their rights and pathways out of poverty in impoverished fragile and conflict affected communities, which may also be prone to natural disasters. The relationship between poverty and uncertainty will be examined in Ethiopia and Nepal in partnership with CHADET and ActionAid Nepal, organisations that have demonstrated their local expertise in working with the most marginalised children and youth on poverty, rights and participation. Dr Vicky Johnson is the Principal Investigator and will utilise her strong working relationships with Ethiopian and Nepalese partners, and knowledge of national contexts, to lead the co-constructed research process and international capacity building. The research has been co-constructed with academics and practitioners internationally: Dr Melese Getu from the University of Addis Ababa will lead the Ethiopian team and Sumon Kamal Tuladhar from the University of Tribhuvan, Nepal will lead the Nepalese team.

Project funding and timeframe

The research started at the University of Brighton in July 2016 - December 2017 (£254,162)

It transferred to the Anthropology Department, Goldsmiths, Jan 2018 – June 2019 (£253, 341)

National Youth Seminars will be held in Ethiopia and Nepal in Feb/March 2019.

An International Seminar on findings and impact will be held at Goldsmiths in May 2019.

Project objectives

The research project objectives:

  • Scrutinise how uncertainty is perceived to affect pathways out of poverty from the perspectives of marginalised youth

  • Examine violence, vulnerability, risk and resilience in the complex lives of young men and women, and young people who are genderfluid, including understanding how identities and notions of autonomy and belonging are developed

  • Analyse youth agency in dealing with uncertainty and insecurity, their awareness of and access to their rights, and their migration behaviours

  • Inform and change policy discourses and practices concerning peace-building, community development and education using an improved understanding of youth uncertainty, intergenerational dynamics and changing cultural and social norms

Research Participants

The age range to be researched (15-24 years) is a crucial age in which people may form lifelong values and relationships. The impact of uncertainty at this stage can, therefore, have long lasting consequences on experiences of poverty.

Through working with 1,000 youth and 320 adults and 80 key stakeholders, the international research team will analyse how thinking and strategies differ between genders and generations. In each country, 250 detailed case studies will be collected to provide stories from young men, women and youth of the third gender, aged 15-24 years, which will help to understand how marginalised youth experiences of poverty, and strategies in the face of uncertainty, change with intersecting aspects ethnicity, caste, religion, disability, education and socio-economic status.

Research Locations

Nepal and Ethiopia both remain among the poorest countries in the world. Both have been affected by conflict, migration and environmental fragility. Three research locations in each country have been selected on the basis of diversity in terms of rural/urban, religion and ethnic groups, poverty and fragility due to conflict and recent environmental disaster.

Research Sites

In Ethiopia:

  • Addis Ketema, in Addis Ababa (urban)
  • Hetosa, Oromia region (rural)
  • Fogera, Amhara region – (urban and rural)

 In Nepal:

  • Kathmandu Valley (urban)
  • Sindhupalchowk District (rural)
  • Kapilbastu District– (urban and rural)

YOUR World Research Impact

YOUR World Research is youth centred research that uses Johnson’s (2011, 2017) Change-scape framework that starts from the perspectives and ideas of youth, taking into account their developing, multiple and shifting identities and their intersecting experiences of structural inequalities and inclusion. It has at its heart the concept that youth are agents of change. Therefore, in addition to their lives being affected by their physical, cultural and political environments, they are also important actors in influencing their contexts. In order for young people’s ideas and evidence to be listened to, processes of research, evaluation and intervention need to include mechanisms that help us listen to youth.

There are National and International Reference Groups and advisers. The team continues to work with adults in communities, service providers and policy makers in dialogue with youth and will be holding National Youth Seminars with line Ministries and partner NGOs in both countries.

Emerging Findings

Although government definitions of uncertainty incorporate ethnicity/ caste, poverty and location, YOUR World Research has been working with youth on their definitions of marginalisation and vulnerability. For example, experiences of abuse in families or worsening environmental fragility and conflict can lead to some young people encountering exclusion and rejection within communities. Their developing identities and how they experience structural inequalities, for example with regard to their gender, sexuality, religion or family dynamics, lead to youth leaving home to live in street situations or to migrate to cities or internationally.

By regarding youth as experts in their lives the team understood how some young people embrace uncertainty to find hope. Their certainty is persistent poverty and insecurity. Some from environmentally fragile earthquake affected and drought prone rural areas face increasingly severe difficulties in subsistence farming or finding local paid employment to help provide for their families. Others, especially rural girls, want to escape expectations of early marriage. Many want to break with family expectations and social norms in their communities and move to uncertain situations and seek new social bonds to gain a sense of belonging. Many young people have been migrating to urban centres and when they still find poverty, insecurity, lack of social status or respect, they migrate internationally to seek different futures.

See YOUR World Briefing 2

Research Team and Research Partners

Dr Vicky Johnson, Principal Investigator, Goldsmiths  

Dr Andy West, Senior Research Fellow, Goldsmiths

Signe Gosmann, Research Officer/ Fellow, Goldsmiths

Professor Andrew Church, Adviser, University of Brighton

Ethiopian Team

Dr Melese Getu, National Research Lead, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Amid Ahmed, Research Assistant, Debre Markos University

Milki Getachew, PhD student, Goldsmiths

Nepal Team

Dr Sumon Kamal Tuladhar, National Research Lead, previously Unicef and CERID

Sabitra Neupane, Research Assistant, HomeNet Nepal

Shubhendra Man Shrestha, PhD student, Goldsmiths

Partners for Ethiopia

CHADET - Director Anannia Admassu Sahle

School of Social Work, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

ChildHope UK - Director Jill Healey

Partners for Nepal

ActionAid Nepal – Director Sujeeta Mathema

Research Centre for Education and Innovation Development (CERID), Tribhuvan University, Nepal


Further Information on YOUR World Research