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Goals for life : empowering youth through sport in Lesotho : a case study of a participatory action research project in southern Africa Parker, Dara Natalie


This paper explores the opportunities and constraints of employing Participatory Action Research (PAR) to conduct a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) with youth in Lesotho. Participatory research methodologies have become virtually synonymous with ethical research, yet a growing body of literature challenges the ubiquitous nature of participatory theory. This paper provides a unique case study of a PAR project undertaken in Lesotho, Southern Africa. It analyses my two-phased experience in using PAR to develop the Olympafrica Youth Ambassador Programme (OYAP), a youth volunteer programme that uses sport as a tool for development. OYAP was initiated in June 2003 and is designed to address pressing social issues facing youth in Lesotho such as HIVIAIDS, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual health. OYAP’s mandate is youth empowering youth through sport, training young people to enhance their own capabilities. In the first phase of my experience developing OYAP, I was unaware of PAR as a methodology useful in community development practices. In the second phase I became well versed on PAR as an approach; I also became more reflexive of my own limitations and weaknesses in the course of my personal journey using PAR, and was able to explore the constraints of PAR as a community development methodology. This study examines the inherent challenges and possibilities related to PAR, detailing issues of accountability, quality, ownership and voice. Building on my first experience in Lesotho where I unintentionally engaged in PAR, I examine a methodology reputed for empowering marginalized communities, ultimately focusing on the role of the facilitator in the PAR process. I argue that the ability to successfully implement PAR depends largely on the individual practitioner’s adherence to PAR principles and ethics and the ability to negotiate the terms of their partnership and collaboration with local communities. I underscore the importance of reflecting on the personal journeys that PAR practitioners undergo while adhering to methodological principles and ethics, and becoming emotionally involved in the work they are doing.

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