Taking part : a study of adolescent sexual health promotion in Peru
This study introduces a theoretical and empirical exploration of the issue of participation within the field of adolescent sexual health promotion. It contributes to, and engages in, two kinds of debates: policy and practice discussions on how to involve adolescents in promoting their sexual health, and academic debates on the relevant theory that informs policy and practice. The thesis critically reviews literature on participatory adolescent sexual health promotion arguing that the field is located at the intersection of three central conceptual vectors: adolescence, which is constructed as inevitably transiting towards adulthood from the moment childhood ends; adolescent sexual health, which is primarily dictated by the languages of biomedicine and psychology; and adolescent participation, which appears understood as a process of adult transmission of knowledge onto the participating adolescent. Challenging these coordinates, and by drawing on the works of Jürgen Habermas and Paulo Freire, a framework for understanding participatory processes is elaborated. Participation here is conceptualised as a social process of creation via which those taking part in it concurrently shape and maintain knowledge, mould and stabilise social relations, and care for themselves. A participatory adolescent sexual health promotion initiative implemented in rural and urban-marginal communities of the Andean, Coastal and Jungle regions of Peru, acts as the observational field for the empirical investigation of the conceptualisation of participation advanced in the thesis. Documentaries and dramas produced in video format by the adolescents taking part in the initiative, together with audio-visual recordings of group discussions in which the adolescents presented and problematised these videos constitute the qualitative data gathered in this study. The data was analysed to explore adolescents’ collective elaborations of sexuality in general and of sexual health in particular, and to reconstruct, from these instances of collective creation, the workings of the participation processes that underpin them.