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Health literacy, HIV/AIDS, and gender : a Ugandan youth lens Mutonyi, Harriet


Youth, the World Bank argues, need to become a constituency for reform in developing countries. This case study responds to this challenge by investigating adolescent students' understanding of the relationship between health literacy, HIV/AIDS, and gender in the context of Uganda. The four questions investigated are: (i) What kind of health literacy, HIV/AIDS, and gender-related information is accessible to Ugandan adolescent secondary school students? (ii) In the students' view, what are the factors contributing to health and HIV/AIDS related challenges faced by young people in Uganda today? (iii) According to these students, what is the impact of the debate on gender equality in the fight against health epidemics including HIV/AIDS? and (iv) What do these students consider to be the way forward for Uganda to achieve better health and improve life chances for all? The theoretical framework includes critical pedagogy and indigenous knowledge systems, as well as integrative gender frameworks. Each contributes a different but complementary understanding of adolescent students' perspectives on the issues under investigation. Data were collected in a qualitative study from January 2005 — May, 2007. The data corpus includes: student journals, reflective reports, artifacts/documents, life history interviews, questionnaires, informal ethnographic conversations, focus group discussions and critical inquiry discussions. In response to each of the research questions, the major findings were as follows: i) The students' understanding of the relationship between health literacy, HIV/AIDS, and gender were in part influenced by the media, and in part their own experiences. ii) Poverty and peer pressure impact young people's health practices. iii) Young people want gender equality debates to have a focus on marginalized males as well as females. iv) Youth suggest that education, fair trade, and better health care services are important in the attainment of the "better health for all" goal in Uganda. The study concludes that marginalized groups, especially youth, need opportunities to develop a united voice and be active participants in reform processes. Further, new analysis frameworks are needed to understand the gender/power relations in Uganda.

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