School, sexuality and problematic girlhoods: reframing ‘empowerment’ discourse
This paper draws on ethnographic research with teenage schoolgirls in Tanzania to explore the impact of education on their experiences of sexual agency and empowerment. School-based education is frequently presented within international development as a route for empowering girls to exercise agency over their sexuality; yet school itself often constitutes a space in which the same restrictive gendered and sexual norms that exist outside the classroom are reproduced or go unchallenged by those working with girls. Despite the constraints to their agency from both outside and within school, girls themselves do resist the narratives of girlhood and sexuality imposed upon them. Recognising how these dynamics challenge our understanding of sexual empowerment is key to finding ways to support girls in navigating repressive norms beyond the classroom.