De- and Re-Constructing Violence with Residential Care Girls

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 15:15
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Helena PARKKILA, Women's and Gender Studies, Finland
Mervi HEIKKINEN, Women's and Gender Studies, University of Oulu, Finland
Since A Black Feminist Statement by Combahee River Collective (1985) various women’ group have made claims to change their unjust oppressive realities. Empowerment is considered as a practice of sharing power with participants so that they can take over their own life and make initiatives and decisions related to it to improve their own agency in life. Empowerment is based on the idea that supporting the self-development and holding people accountable for outcomes of their actions, will contribute to their competence and further their participation.

In this article we elaborate empowerment of young women who live in residential care institution especially in relation to violence-free life. In general, young girls experience violence in several life sectors. However, the girls who are living in residential care institutions are particularly vulnerable due to their age, gender, race, and their previous and often cumulative victimization to various forms of violence.

We benefit from the main results of our participatory research on violence experiences of the girls in residential care institution when building the empowerment program. In our study, the residential girls’ authenticity and feelings of belonging appear as the ability to share one’s experiences and display vulnerability, which would in turn support their individual imaginative and thinking processes in terms of gender violence recognition and protection. We also considered the ability to relate or re-label one’s experiences to be a strong aspect of empowerment.

It became evident that to understand the gendered construction of violence, and to be successful in de- and reconstruction of girls’ conception of violence, we should take sexism into account in the design of empowering education. Therefore girls were provided a possibility to belong for a group and to receive an alternative experience for learning, sharing and caring.