Current Projects

Methodological and Technological Innovation

VIPRU approaches the study of safety, peace and health promotion as well as injuries and violence and as a gestalt. While surveillance technologies will continue to help trace the occurrence and magnitude of violence, traffic and unintentional injuries, our focus is widened to develop methods and instruments to map community social assets and capital, as well as to guide and support the promotion of safe, peaceful and healthy communities. The priorities of our work in VIPRU are therefore to:

  • Improve injury surveillance through automated data collection systems;
  • Secure province-wide and city coverage for fatal injuries;
  • Streamline the co-ordination and management of the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System (NIMSS);
  • Facilitate linkages between data systems;
  • Develop instruments and processes to identify community assets and social capital and
  • Develop instruments that monitor safety and peace across different regions of the country and the continent

Adopting trans-disciplinary and multi-method approach serves to focus VIPRU’s specific attention on:

  • Community level and social determinants of safety, peace and health promotion as well as violence and injury prevention;
  • Specific vulnerable groups (e.g. children, the elderly, young men, immigrants);
  • Specific vulnerable locations (e.g. underserved communities, taverns, places of entertainment, schools, crèches);
  • Resilient populations; and
  • Safe, peaceful and healthy environments.

Our research and intervention work on the social determinants and promotive factors of safety, peace and health promotion as well as violence and injury prevention are key for evaluating and building safe, peaceful and healthy communities. The critical, trans-disciplinary and multi-method approaches assumed in the work of VIPRU seeks to highlight how social determinants related to, among other factors, social inequality, access to power, wealth, generative identities and citizenship influence violence and injuries, as well as safety, peace and health.


VIPRU’s intervention research is centred on the three injury priority areas; violence, traffic and unintentional injury. Our intervention-directed studies focus on both specific vulnerable and resilient groups and environments. These intervention place emphasis on promoting safe, peaceful and healthy communities, thereby requiring an interrogation of the global safe communities approach and its applicability to the African continent.

As a recognised safe communities and affiliate support and certifying centre, VIPRU will revisit the safe communities’ criteria with the aim of adopting a community participatory action research approach that addresses the macro factors linked to developing a just and equal society. Resources are to be mobilised for the development of demonstration safe and peaceful communities across different regions of the country and continent.

The intervention work is to be guided by sensitivity to the power dynamics inherent in the researcher-researched relationship so as to foster an egalitarian, participatory and transparent approach to research formulation, execution and utilisation. As interventions are particularly susceptible to reproducing dominant power relations and masking socio-economic and political influences, the VIPRU will encourage a reflexivity and criticality that includes addressing the question of ‘whose interests are being served’ when advocating for particular measures and actions.

Themes & Research Questions

VIPRU research and interventions are organised around three themes and research questions:

Theme 1: Innovative Methodologies and Technologies
Main research question: What are the methodological and technological innovations required to support prevention?

Theme 2: Determinants-based Interventions theme
Main research question:What determinant-based interventions work for violence and injury prevention for different settings and groups?

Theme 3: Enabling Intervention Environments theme
Main research question: What are the optimal institutional, social and policy environments supportive of science-based prevention? 

Automated National Injury Mortality Surveillance System

A major factor impacting on the National Injury Mortality Surveillance System is the ability to provide a relatively timeous turnaround of injury statistics is the fact that data are collected manually from participating mortuaries around the country. Consequently, the release of NIMSS annual reports are often too late to inform the annual planning and resource allocation cycles of relevant government departments and civil society agencies. To address this problem, an automated capture and reporting (surveillance) system has been developed and is being piloted at selected Forensic Pathology Services (FPS) in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. The system allows for the collection of fatal injury data in the country to be centralised and standardised, and to be captured online in real time.

The primary aim of the project is to provide timely, quality epidemiological data that can be used by government and other relevant agencies to inform policy, interventions and funding allocations for the effective control and reduction of injuries in the country. Of high importance also is the fact that the system is being designed to allow for integration with other related surveillance and data systems. For example, by adopting different GIS and mobile technologies, this will facilitate in-depth analytical research on the disproportionately high burden of injuries in South Africa. Testing of the final software for the data capture, which included the ICD-10 coding system at the request of MLL staff, was completed at the beginning of 2012.

The selected pilot sites in the two provinces have been provided with the necessary hardware, and relevant staff at these sites have also received training on data capture and on how to use the automated system. A total of nine sites are currently capturing injury mortality data using the online system. During 2012, project staff collected information on fatal injuries for 2011 and databases have been produced for both Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Mortuary management and provincial research-based reports are currently being prepared for the two provinces. 2013 will focus on the development and testing of the automated report system based on the data captured for 2012.

Masculinity and Equality Lab

The Masculinity and Equality Lab currently has three projects:

  1. Doing Masculinities and Femininities at Home: Gender (In)Equitable Parenting in Patriarchal and Feminist Families;
  2. Equal Families; and
  3. End Violence: Talk to your Children about Gender Equality.

Doing Masculinities and Femininities at Home: Gender (In)Equitable Parenting in Patriarchal and Feminist Families
The study was intended to expand on the limited understanding of the ways in which constructions of gender are reproduced within the context of the traditional, gender-unequal (which we referred to as patriarchal) families and non-heteronormative, or gender-egalitarian (which we refer to as feminist) families. The study was also aimed at tracing the ways in which families and individuals within families resist constructions and making space for more equitable masculinities and femininities to emerge.

The study emerged out of the research that shows that the levels of violence in South Africa are higher than in many other countries. Other research which informed the work shows that violence, in particular sexual and gender-based violence, is associated with inequality, specifically gender inequality. What our studies introduced was a focus on families. Families are central in how children are socialised into gender inequitable or equitable structures and in the development of masculinities and femininities. The primary problematic considered in the study was how are masculinities and femininities constructed by parents and children within the contexts of feminist and patriarchal families? Since race is a central structuring structure or identities, the study considered how are masculinities and femininities constructed by parents and children within families who self-identify differently in racial terms. The two main aims of the study were: first, what are the ways in which gender is constructed in self-identified feminist and patriarchal families by both parents and children; and second, we will examine how gender (in)equality is imparted in these families. Translated into questions, our aims were:

  1. How do parents in self-identified feminist and patriarchal families construct gender?
  2. How do children in self-identified feminist and patriarchal families construct gender?
  3. How is gender equality or/and equality imparted within these families?

Participants for the study were self-identified feminist or gender egalitarian and self-identified patriarchal families with children between the age of 6 and 18. This age group of children was selected as it was felt that by the age of 6 children are mostly likely to possess the necessary verbal skills to participate in the interview. It was also felt that children up to the age of 18 are most likely to still be living at home and therefore are likely to be exposed to their parents’ views surrounding gender. Families were recruited online via feminist website and social media pages, through local religious institutions and by means of snowball contacts.

The study has produced a number of outputs, including several newspaper articles, television and radio appearances, this article in the journal Global Health Action, and this policy brief.

Equal Families
The purpose of the Equal Families project is to expand on the above study, “Doing masculinities and femininities at home”, which investigated the ways in which gender and gender (in)equality is constructed in a range of families. While the previous study helped to expand an understanding of how gender is constructed by both parents and children, it raised a number of questions and suggested at least three limitations.

The first limitation is that the “Doing masculinities and femininities at home” study used both egalitarian or feminist families as well as patriarchal or traditional families. This may have occluded a more detailed investigation into how equal families are made or maintained. The current study is an attempt to understand the making and workings of self-identified equal families. 
The second limitation is that “Doing masculinities and femininities at home” used once-off interviews with families to explore their views and practices of gender (in)equality. While this approach was valuable in exploring how gender was constructed in different ways, it also revealed contradictions between views and practices of gender. These contradictions occurred on a number of different levels. For example, in some instances different family-members from the same family presented contradictory narratives of their everyday family life. In other instances there was a contradiction between participants’ views of gender (for example positioning men and women as equal) and their descriptions of their household practices (for example describing women as responsible for household labour and childcare and men as responsible for financial provision). Similar to the research literature discussed above, this finding points to a complex interaction between ideological and practical factors in shaping the enactment of gender equality. In light of this, we feel it is important to more closely explore how these ideological and practical factors interact. This will require observations of what families do as well as engaging with how they understand gender and their gendered practices.

In the third place, “Doing masculinities and femininities at home” revealed that in many instances families had not reflected upon how their everyday practices may be fostering particular gendered relations within their homes. The proposed research project, through engaging families in multiple exchanges, is intended not only to provide a nuanced understanding of how gender equality is enacted within families, but also to encourage families to think critically about (and perhaps even shift) problematic constructions and practices of gender. Finally, an additional motivation for the new study is that more research is necessary to develop a better view of the ways in which particular understandings and enactments of gender equality are influenced by broader social and structural factors, including how issues of class, race, and age shape constructions of gender in particular ways

The proposed study on Equal Families has four main aims.

  • Firstly, we are interested in the prevalence of gender egalitarian attitudes and practices within South African families.
  • Secondly, the study is interested in the ways in which gender equality is talked about and practiced within the context of self-identified egalitarian families, as well as how gender equality talk and gender equality practice are related to each other.
  • Thirdly, the project aims to engage with families in ways that encourage them to reflect on their everyday gender and gender equality practices.
  • Fourthly, we would like develop a better view of the ways in which particular understandings and enactments of gender equality are influenced by broader social and structural factors, specifically income, race, sexuality, age of participants.

The question which will guide the study are:

  1. How do self-defined families talk about gender and gender equality?
  2. How do self-defined families practice gender and gender equality?
  3. How are understandings and enactments of gender and gender equality in self-defined shaped by social categories of income, race, sexuality, and age?

The study will have three components, namely, (i) a quantitative component which seeks to investigate the prevalence of gender equality within families; (ii) and a qualitative component which focuses on an in-depth engagement with a limited number of families in order to advance a more nuanced understanding of how gender equality is achieved; and (iii) a documentary film. 

End Violence: Talk to your Children about Gender Equality
End Violence: Talk to your Children about Gender Equality is a public advocacy and parenting skills project which focuses on the relationship between gender, violence and equality. The project follows through and extends on the research which investigated the ways in which gender is constructed in families: “Doing masculinities and femininities at home: Gender (in)equitable parenting in patriarchal and feminist families”. The End Violence project will use postcards, pamphlets and online resources (via a website) to provide parents with knowledge, skills and resources to engage their children in discussions about gender, violence and equality. View the End Violence! Talk to Your Children About Gender Equality pamphlet. Community-based workshops will also be held to disseminate information and skills.