School of Education

School of Education part of Local Democracy Academy in Sweden

Dr Raksha Janak and Ms Diloshni Govender.
Dr Raksha Janak and Ms Diloshni Govender.

Postdoctoral researcher Dr Raksha Janak and PhD student in the School of Education Ms Diloshni Govender attended the Local Democracy Academy in Sweden organised by the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD) in co-operation with Uppsala University and Uppsala Forum for Africa Studies.

The Academy is an intensive academic programme that brings leading scholars from around the world together for a week of mutual learning, critical thinking and joint exploration of new ideas to foster more inclusive local democracy on a global scale. This year’s theme was Transformative local governments: bringing people and politics together.

Janak and Govender presented their National Research Foundation (NRF)-funded research papers at the Academy.

Janak presented her research on schoolgirls’ experiences of sexual violence in a South African primary school within the theme of Feminist Cities which prioritises the creation of safer spaces for young girls and women with access to freedom of space, resources and equal opportunities.

‘The study’s unique contribution is the application of a New Feminist Materialist approach to understand girls’ experiences of sexual violence. It goes beyond existing knowledge of girls and sexual violence to consider how surrounding material realities may unlock alternate meanings to assist local government in future interventions,’ said Janak.

The Academy helped her to understand the importance of her role as a researcher in connecting data to policy frameworks and practice. ‘I had an opportunity to meet brilliant minds, exchange ideas, network and of course have lots of fun in beautiful Visby. I am inspired to share this knowledge in transformative ways at a micro-political level within my town of Kwa-Dukuza and South Africa.’

Govender presented on eight- to nine-year-old boys’ experiences and perpetration of gender violence within and beyond schooling spaces. She found ‘that boys’ engagement in and experiences of violence is complex and manifests through the specific influence of the broader racial, social and historical conditionings which are important avenues to consider when addressing violence and planning for child-friendly spaces.’

The findings have key implications for recognising and supporting children as active participants in the creation of a non-violent, democratic society. Govender calls for ‘collaborative efforts between schools and local government towards the creation of child-friendly spaces where children can play, build personal relations and receive psychosocial support to overcome the effects of violence in their home, school and communities.’


Both Janak and Govender found the Academy enriching and thanked their supervisor Professor Deevia Bhana for the opportunity.

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