Enabling environments for reflection about youth sexuality and responsibility in the case of contraceptive use and abortion: Exploring methods of engagement in north-western Tigray, Ethiopia
Research project: My earlier research on girls’ education in Asgede Tsimbla Wereda, north-western Tigray, North-Ethiopia, confirmed that equal numbers of girls and boys in school is not by itself enough to create an enabling environment for gender equality and girls' success in and through education if gender relations and power, local sentiments and norms concerning femininity and masculinity, and female and male sexuality - upholding the practice of underage marriage of rural girls - continue to pass unaddressed.
In this present research project I again utilise education as a 'site' for investigation where policy agendas on gender, education, reproductive health and development meet local sentiments, in order to operationalize competing discourses on sexuality at an arena where female and male youth increasingly are situated together when reaching puberty.
Based on earlier positive experiences of using humour/“edutainment” in adolescent sexual and reproductive health programs, the visual method of engagement explored in this research project seeks to encourage female and male youth to reflect on their roles and responsibilities concerning sexuality and sexual relations in general and fertility control and abortion in particular; issues which might not be so easy to discuss directly. Having both academic and applied pretentions, the research focus is framed by existing policies in Ethiopia concerning free access to contraceptives, youth-friendly reproductive health services and an expanded range of legal indications for safe abortion.
Fieldwork: Asgede Tsimbla Wereda, north-western zone of Tigray, North-Ethiopia, July-September 2015, January-June and December 2016, April-November 2017 and May-November 2018.
Mjaaland, Thera (2018) Producer of the edutainment drama, Love Complications, by Shewit Goytom, Dejen Fisseha, Helen Girmay, Mekonnen Goytom, Masho Azenaw, Merhawit Teshome, Bethelhem Haileselassie, Tedros Guesh, Tewelde Negassie and Tekleweyni Berhe. Tigrinya and English versions available on YouTube (23:19 min).
Mjaaland, Thera (2018) Choices & Consequences: An edutainment drama about youth sexual and reproductive health in north-western Tigray, Ethiopia. Part 3 & 4: Tigrinya and English versions available on YouTube.
Mjaaland, Thera (2017) Choices & Consequences: An edutainment drama about youth sexual and reproductive health in north-western Tigray, Ethiopia. Part 2: Tigrinya and English versions available on YouTube.
Mjaaland, Thera (2016) Choices & Consequences: An edutainment drama about youth sexual and reproductive health in north-western Tigray, Ethiopia. Part 1: Tigrinya and English versions available on YouTube.
Paper presentations/public screenings:
Mjaaland, Thera (2018) Contradictory trends? Some reflections on gender issues in Tigray. Invited keynote speaker at the 2nd International Conference on Women in Science, Innovation, Business and Leadership for Development. Mekelle, 9-10 November.
Mjaaland, Thera (2018) Altogether 8 public screenings of the edutainment drama “Choices & Consequences”, Part 1-4, and “Love Complications” in Asgede Tsimbla Wereda (district) Tigray. Endabaguna 19 October & 1 November, Mayshek 20 October, Edaga Hibret 21 October, Hitsats 27 October, May Hanse 28 October, Adi Mehameday 3 November and Kisadgeba 4 November.
Mjaaland, Thera (2018) Epistemologies of ignorance: the hymenocentric myth of female virginity and implications for women’s SRHR. Paper presented in the panel ‘Gendering reproduction and fertility control in Ethiopia’ (convened by Thera Mjaaland and Mulumebet Zenebe). ICES2020. Mekelle, 1-5 October 2018.
Mjaaland, Thera (2017) Exploring methods of engagement in research on youth SRH. Invited speaker to the Conference on Health, Science and Higher Education. Presented together with the youth Shewit Goytom, Tekleweyni Berhe and Kibrom Mebrahtum. Addis Ababa, 8 November.
Mjaaland, Thera (2017) Public screenings of Part 1 & 2 of the cinematic edutainment drama, Choices & Consequences, Endabaguna, Tigray, 6 & 29 October.
Mjaaland, Thera and Camila Gianella (2017) US re-instating the ‘Global Gag Rule’ – what now? Breakfast Forum, Bergen Resource Centre, 21 February.
Mjaaland, Thera, Karen Marie Moland og Agnete Strøm (2017) Kan Trump stoppe kvinners abortrett? Kronikk, Bergens Tidende, 20. februar.
Mjaaland, Thera (2016) Negotiating normativity in gender research: A case from Tigray, Ethiopia. Paper presented at the Nordic Intercultural Communication Conference, NLA, Bergen, 24-26 November.
Mjaaland, Thera (2016) Screening of the cinematic edutainment drama 'Choices and Consequences', part 1, on the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. Bergen Public Library, 28 September.
Mjaaland, Thera (2016) Method of engagement in gender research. Paper presented to the panel 'Gender research and gender-responsive methodologies'. Gender and change: global challenges for Africa? Nordic Africa Days, NAI, Uppsala, 23-24 September.
Mjaaland, Thera (2016) Public screening of Part 1 of the cinematic edutainment drama, Choices & Consequences, Mayshek, Tigray, 5 June.
Mjaaland, Thera (2016) Public screenings of Part 1 of the cinematic edutainment drama, Choices & Consequences, Endabaguna, Tigray, 13 & 17 May.