Gender-based violence is pervasive in South African society and is often seen as the driver of HIV, particularly affecting youth. Rural KwaZulu-Natal, where we have been working in a district in an on-going university-school partnership, is noted as the epicentre of the epidemic. The two secondary schools in this study were therefore conveniently chosen while the 30 Grade 9 learners, 7 boys and 23 girls between the ages of 13-16, were purposively selected. The use of participatory visual methodologies, which is the focus of this special issue, taps into the notion of 'research as intervention' and speaks to the potential of educational research contributing to social change. In this qualitative study we used participatory video to explore youths' understanding of gender-based violence, as well as how they envision making schools safe. Power theory is used as theoretic lens to frame the study and to make meaning of the findings, namely, that girls' bodies are sites for gender-based violence at unsafe schools; that the 'keepers of safety' are perpetuating gender-based violence at school; and that learners have a sound understanding of what can be done to address gender-based violence. This study, with its 'research as intervention' approach, enabled learners to make their voices heard and to reflect on what it is that they as youth can do to contribute to safe schooling.