Researchers Experience Multiple Embodiments in a Cross-Cultural, Intergenerational Event to Support Girls Challenging Gender-Based Violence


  • Pamela Lamb McGill University (Canada)
  • Catherine Vanner University of Windsor (Canada)
  • Haleh Raissadat McGill University (Canada)
  • Milka Nyariro McGill University (Canada)
  • S. M. Hani Sadati McGill University (Canada)


Collaborative auto-ethnography, Consulting young people, Embodied reflexivity, Empowerment, Friction, Gender-based violence, Resistance, Youth voice


Many challenges exist to conducting participatory research and consultation with young people, especially with those considered vulnerable or at risk. Beyond respecting the safety and wellbeing of young research participants, researchers must be aware of barriers to youth engagement and be attuned to the many forms of youth resistance. As young people are seeking more control over their lives, traditional knowledge hierarchies between adults and youth are shifting. In July 2018, an event entitled Circles Within Circles brought together Indigenous and non-Indigenous girls and young women from South Africa, Canada, Russia, Sweden, and Kenya to learn from each other’s participatory art-making and create a network for challenging gender-based violence (GBV). This article provides insight into the often-invisible experience of the “supporting cast” in events like Circles Within Circles. The co-authors are doctoral and postdoctoral researchers who contributed to organization and acted as facilitators, notetakers, and participants. The co-authors conduct participatory analyses of journal entries they wrote throughout the event, and jointly reflect on the activities and their feelings about their roles. Reflecting, for example, on gut feelings about young participants’ use of voice and silence during adult-led activities, the co-authors discuss their reading of girls’ demonstrations of resistance. This embodied knowledge, further cultivated by attuning to shared experience, is explored in this collaborative auto-ethnography. Examining the complexities of this cross-cultural and intergenerational event, the co-authors contend that when supporting girls and young people subverting dominant narratives of GBV, researchers’ embodied reflexivity is crucial for positively contributing to girl-led change.

Author Biographies

Pamela Lamb, McGill University (Canada)

Pamela Lamb is a SSHRC-funded doctoral candidate in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. She has long been interested in how girls and young women from marginalized communities are challenging normative perceptions and social inequality through art and narrative. Building on interdisciplinary scholarship and multimedia practice, her PhD research explores the relationship between the affective and the discursive in critical narrative interventions. She is a course lecturer and has previously worked as a registered nurse in clinical and community settings. She holds a M.A. in media studies and a B.A. honors in women’s studies.

Catherine Vanner, University of Windsor (Canada)

Catherine Vanner is an assistant professor of educational foundations at the University of Windsor. Her research uses qualitative methods to analyze the relationship between education and gender-based violence in diverse country contexts. She has worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at McGill University and an education advisor and consultant for Plan International Canada, UNESCO, and the Canadian International Development Agency (now Global Affairs Canada). She holds a Ph.D. in education from the University of Ottawa and a M.A. in international affairs from Carleton University.

Haleh Raissadat, McGill University (Canada)

Haleh Raissadat’s professional interests as a learning specialist focus on providing effective strategies to improve academic and learning outcomes for young adults. She has a B.Eng. (software engineering), an MA (educational technology), and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. (educational studies) at McGill University. As a researcher, her focus is on the practicality of youth-led, grassroots policy-making in order to bring new learning to individuals, communities, and societies. These perspectives are informed by her interest in the impact of educational and health policies on the health and well-being of girls and young women.

Milka Nyariro, McGill University (Canada)

Milka Nyariro is a FRQSC- and IDRC-funded doctoral candidate in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Her doctoral project focuses on using photovoice, a participatory visual methodology, to explore policy barriers to school continuation for young mothers living in marginalized contexts. Her research interest is focused on addressing sexual and gender-based violence in and around educational institutions using participatory visual methodologies. She has a M.A. in anthropology and a B.A. in anthropology, both from the University of Nairobi.

S. M. Hani Sadati, McGill University (Canada)

S.M. Hani Sadati is a FRQSC-funded doctoral candidate in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. His doctoral project is on participatory digital game development to address sexual and gender-based violence in agriculture colleges in Ethiopia. As a researcher interested in digital game-based learning and participatory game design he seeks to use participatory methodologies to create a self-educating tool (in the format of a digital game) for instructors of agricultural colleges in Ethiopia to empower them in addressing gender-based violence in their colleges. Her background is in social science (B.A.) and women’s studies (M.A.).