The influence of peer relationships on young people's sexual health in Sub-Saharan African street contexts.

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Date: Nov. 2021
From: Social Science & Medicine(Vol. 288)
Publisher: Elsevier Science Publishers
Document Type: Report
Length: 455 words

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Abstract :

Keywords Sub-Saharan Africa; Street youth; Sexual relationships; Peer influence; Peer relationships; Sexual health; Social networks; Social anchorage Highlights * Young people are the majority living in new urban informality. * A new conceptualization positions street peer relations as socio-spatially anchored. * Peers can play a critical role in the sexual wellbeing of young street people. * Policy, practice and peer social networks can advance sexual health of street youth. Abstract This paper explores the interaction between peer relationships and sexual health among street youth in three Sub-Saharan African cities: Accra (Ghana), Bukavu (Democratic Republic of Congo), and Harare (Zimbabwe). It begins by conceptualising peer relationships for youth globally and considers why these are pivotal for young people living in street settings. The paper reconceptualizes street peer relationships not as replacement families, but as sharing 'social anchorage' in the street space. It draws on qualitative ethnographic data from Growing up on the Streets, a longitudinal research project with a participatory methodology undertaken between 2012 and 2016 and engaging street youth (aged 14--20 at project outset) trained in ethnographic observations as research assistants (n = 18), following a network of ten peers (n = 229 by 2016), reporting their experiences in weekly interviews with facilitators. A wider network attended focus groups (n = 399). The project engaged a 'capability' approach, with ten capabilities defined by street youth as key to their daily lives. Empirical evidence is from a subset of data qualitatively coded (using NVivo) against capabilities 'Health and Wellbeing' and 'Friendship', across all interviews, focus groups and cities (n = 212 sources). In exploring this intersection, the paper demonstrates beneficial and adverse impacts of peer influence on sexual health, including misinformation about contraceptives and death from an informal sector abortion; highlighting findings from across the three cities around primacy of same-sex peer relations, mistrust between genders and in healthcare providers. The paper finds that while street youth remain subject to cultural norms around gender identities, street peer relationships hold a persuasive power; contributing to both everyday survival and moments of acute need. It concludes that recognising the right of young people to live and seek livelihoods in urban settings, and adopting the social networks they create to advance street youth's sexual health has become even more relevant in a (post)pandemic world. Author Affiliation: (a) Geography and Environmental Science, School of Social Sciences, University of Dundee, Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN, UK (b) Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK * Corresponding author. Geography and Environmental Science, School of Social Sciences, University of Dundee, Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN, UK Article History: Revised 9 July 2020; Accepted 5 August 2020 Byline: Janine Hunter [] (a,*), Lorraine van Blerk [] (a), Wayne Shand [] (b)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A679455829