Take me to tomorrow: The social imaginaries of Ugandan youth on employment and empowerment

Start date: 13 April, 2014 End date: 3 June, 2014 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A26828 Countries: Uganda Institutions: Roskilde University (RUC), Denmark Grant recipient: Mille Shalini Pjedsted Total grant: 17,000 DKK



The aim of this thesis is to investigate vulnerable youth involved in Save the Children International’s Education for Youth Empowerment (EYE) programme in Western Uganda. It seeks to explore how they construct social imaginaries of their futures, how the EYE programmes will transform their lives, and also what and how these social imaginaries are influenced. More specifically the thesis aims to study what it is like to be young in Western Uganda and what is at stake in these traditional settings and if the youth’s social imaginaries correspond to the subsequent reality they faced with following their graduation in EYE. Finally it also aims to investigate the actually impact of EYE and how Save The Children International Uganda (SCI Uganda) empowers vulnerable youth.

This study is grounded in ethnographic field research conducted in Western Uganda and with a pragmatic methodological approach. The method primarily consists of semi-structured interviews with the vulnerable youth although; I also included three expert interviews with key people in SCI Uganda, who work with EYE at different levels in the organisation. The thesis therefore analyses the youth dreams, ambitions and expectations of EYE and their future as well as the influence and interaction with SCI Uganda.

Moreover the theoretical framework for this thesis consists of two theories: Youth Theory and Social Imaginaries. The youth theory is used to define the adolescent spans, what is at stake in that period and the transition to young adulthood, from being dependent to becoming independent. Furthermore, social imaginaries are used to clarify the youth’s constructed dreams, expectations, ambitions and practices, but also to understand how social imaginaries are constructed in the mind-set of the vulnerable youth, but also what and who influences the construction of the social imaginaries.

Based on the analysis, I have highlighted how the vulnerable youth face harsh realities in poor environments and how they struggle to obtain an education and are constantly seeking employment. Moreover, I have identified the different factors such as the family, graduates in EYE, local partners and SCI Uganda, who influence the youth’s mind-set and consequently also affect how they construct their dreams, ambitions and expectations of the future. The EYE programme has been an attempt to accommodate and solve the problem of the high unemployment rate among the youth in Western Uganda, but also to empower the youth by strengthen their economic ability and mobilize their resources to become active citizens. The youth through EYE, have acquired vocational skills and self-confidence which has enable them to make changes – especially financial changes to both themselves, their families and their local communities. However, how much the youth have actually been socially and politically empowered is debatable.