This thesis analyses girls’ agency in negotiating girl power discourses in international development. It focuses on the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, which encourages girls in the Global North to fundraise towards girls’ education in the Global South as a means to solving global poverty. Girl Up has been critiqued for encouraging Southern girls to take individual responsibility for lifting their communities out of poverty, for depoliticising global and gender inequalities and for encouraging girls in the Global North to see themselves as the saviours of their Southern counterparts. However, there has been little research on how girls participate in campaigns such as Girl Up. My central research question asks how girls negotiate girl power discourses in the Girl Up campaign. I adopt a feminist, postcolonial and poststructuralist theoretical approach in analysing data from focus groups with Girl Up members in the UK, US and Malawi. From girls in New York attending women’s marches to girls in Lilongwe raising money to keep their friends in school, the Girl Up members adapted the campaign to suit their own visions of empowerment, rejecting simplistic narratives of Northern saviours and Southern victims. They undertook activities of a more radical nature than was advocated by Girl Up, reflected critically on the Girl Up discourse, rejected its individualistic models of girls’ empowerment and interacted with their Northern/Southern counterparts in a spirit of mutual learning and respect. I came to conceptualise Girl Up club members as feminist activists, thus contributing to the emerging literature on girls’ political activism, which has historically been under theorised in the literature on politics, youth studies and gender and development. I conclude that scholars of development studies and campaigning organisations alike need to pay greater attention to girls as political subjects and to their many moments of resistance to dominant discourses.
|Date of Award||28 Nov 2019|
- The University of Bristol
|Supervisor||Jutta Weldes (Supervisor) & Karen Tucker (Supervisor)|