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Translating Sexuality. A Comparative Study on the Localization of International Standards for Sexuality Education in School Education Contexts

Sara Kolah Ghoutschi

This project investigates how international approaches and regulations for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) are localized and translated in national contexts and its different sites of translations in which actors make sense of these norms. Starting from the assumption of CSE as a globally contested concept, we explore the dynamics of norm translation related to this curriculum-based approach as one of the most relevant aspects of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights .

Moving beyond the global-to-local framework, we further build our research on interactive norm research approaches. By bridging different theories such as norm translation, contestation and vernacularization and bringing them into dialogue, we consider norm translation processes as ongoing and multidirectional thus highlighting the complexity and diversity of the involved actors, structures and societal dynamics. The research focus lies on the processes embedded on the everyday sites of translation where different structures and power dynamics interact.

Drawing on the cases of Sexuality Education in the Ethiopian and Kenyan context, our objective is to develop a broader and more comprehensive understanding of translation processes particularly for contested international norms and standards by applying a rather empirical approach. We base our research on sexuality education translation processes in school curricula negotiations and its corresponding rules and regulations, looking at diverse spaces such as (international) workshops, trainings, religious spaces, health facilities, and school-related sites. Our scope of participants includes government officials, stakeholders, school-related actors, religious, FBOs, CSOs and IOs representatives. Our research is based on empirical data collected during several fieldwork stages (2019-2020) in which problem-centered and narrative interviews were conducted and complemented by focus group discussions and participant observation.

Our work aims to shed light on everyday practices around international norms where actors’ translation and contestation is ongoing as they make sense and negotiate these norms on a daily-basis or in other words vernacularize the curriculum and its content. Thus, addressing the research gap and offering a wider conceptualization of sites, actors, and norms to better account for their heterogeneity.

Project Period: 2018-2021
Funding: Fritz Thyssen Foundation
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Thorsten Bonacker
Team: Alina de Luna Aldape, Sara Kolah Ghoutschi