PhD Oral Exam - Michelle Savard, Education
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
Over 12,000 girls and women were abducted during Uganda’s civil war (1986-2007), and many were forced to be wives. When these young women returned home, they were marginalized by their communities for their participation in the war and having had children out of wedlock. Reintegration programs were created as a means to improve relationships with the community, help youth process the trauma from the war, and develop the skills necessary for a livelihood. Research demonstrates that these programs tend to use deficit-based approaches, essentialize young women as “victims,” and pathologize their experiences. Furthermore, the programs do not involve the young women in decisions that concern them. There is a need to create reintegration programs grounded in a critical understanding of marginalization and the barriers these women face at all levels of the socio-ecology.
This project examines three different approaches to the post-war reintegration of war-affected and formerly abducted young mothers in Northern Uganda, as well as the social, political, and cultural barriers to reintegration. In order to frame this comparison, I used Hall’s (1994, 1999, 2004) theory of marginalization and Cornwall and Coelho’s (2007) notion of social spaces. I assessed how well each space enhanced three factors: competent functioning, social inclusion, and financial stability. Using ethnographic methods, the first approach I investigated consisted of “formal or closed spaces,” namely two reintegration programs headed by NGOs. The second approach investigated was a “created space” developed by 20 young mothers, community members, elders, and me. Using participatory action research, we collectively created a self-directed, peer-support model of reintegration. The third space was “claimed” by a local group of women who supported each other, saved together, and borrowed money from their group to expand their businesses. This study revealed the need for programs to take a socio-ecological approach to reintegration and to address the structural barriers such as patriarchal values that keep women in poverty. Based on findings concerning the interconnectedness of the three success factors, the benefits of using participatory processes, and considering the nature of social spaces, recommendations and a new model for reintegration are put forward.