Battling for survival: The struggles of teenage girls in rural New Zealand

Stream: Gendered Constructions: Critical Assessment and Tools for Change
Date: Thursday, 12 February 2015
Time: 11.00 am – 12.45 pm


Remote location, predominance of male-based primary industries and patriarchal attitudes leave girls living on the West Coast of New Zealand battling for survival against gender subjugation and sexual exploitation. The social climate for these girls is further complicated by the normalizing of the intergenerational transmission of family violence and the fostering of horizontal oppression that pits girls against each other in a competition for heterosexual attention. This presentation draws from the Girls of Concern Study (2014) and The Girls’ Project (2011), conducted in the Tasman Police District, New Zealand. Qualitative findings, gathered through over 100 interviews and 60 focus groups with local young women between the ages of 10 and 28, provide the platform for community initiatives to challenge a culture of normalized gendered violence. This insightful examination offers an ethnographic analysis that illuminates the intersection of location, gender and violence, and offers awareness of intervention and prevention opportunities and strategies.


Donna Swift (Presenter), Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology New Zealand
Social anthropologist, Dr Donna Swift, is passionate about young women’s well being and researches the challenges they face from societal pressures, violence and anti-social behaviour. As the principal researcher of The Girls’ Project (2011) and Girls of Concern (2014), Dr Swift delivers her findings through workshops and presentations, speaking throughout New Zealand, Australia and overseas. In 2014, Dr Swift received the New Zealand Sonja Davies Peace Award for her work with girls, also the 2011-2013 National Project for Soroptimist International New Zealand. She is a Principal Academic Staff Member, Social Work Programme at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, New Zealand.