Background Research concerning child safety within Africa is dominated by adult-centric linguistic-based research. Such research has radically individualised child safety and denies children any kind of agency in conceptualising their protection. Despite the immense communicative potential inherent within visual methodologies, very few community-based research studies have meaningfully considered visual constructions of child safety.
Methods When working with youth from contexts with which researchers are unfamiliar, visual methodologies and analyses are able to transcend much of the developmental and cultural barriers to communication that are inherent to linguistically-focussed research methods. By employing a visual discourse analysis on six photographs captured by Ethiopian youth in a Multi-Country Photovoice Project on child safety, this study aims to showcase the manner in which analysing visual discourses is able to give voice to children within child safety research.
Results It was found that participants drew predominantly on two discourses; Humanising Capital and Unity, both of which resisted a number of hegemonic discourses surrounding child safety. Participants were able to reappropriate and challenge dominant, adult-centric depictions of child safety by constructing unity among children as well as national and economic secuity as that which comprises children’s safety.
Conclusions Participants’ visual constructions served as a meaningful mode of communication, as well as a relevant approach of implementing youth ownership of meaning-making processes within community-based child safety research. The visual meaning-making processes catered to the participants’ developmental, cultural and linguistic positionality, and allowed them to challenge the dominant child safety discourses in which their voices have traditionally been ignored.
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