#SMGP2014 in Dadaab, Kenya

Reposted from the Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University.

Late Thursday night, groggy and stiff from travel, I met RET’s driver who took me to the hotel in Nairobi where I’m staying for the weekend. I’ve worked with RET before so much of the drive at 11:00pm involved him catching me up on the comings and goings of the team. RET is an international non-governmental organizations that specifically works to provide education and meet educational needs “of young people made vulnerable by displacement, violence, armed conflict and disaster.”

In this project, I wear two hats as a visiting researcher, part project evaluator and part external researcher. Today in the small RET office in Nairobi, I sit with the project manager, Regina, and move through my Terms of Reference as the evaluator. Then we discussed the pre-dissertation research I am pursuing with the support of the Student Media Grant Program from the Center for Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University. My research involves understanding power in training that intends to empower women learners in the Diaspora, particularly refugee populations. I’m focusing on Somali refugees in Kenya as they are a unique and large Diaspora, the majority of whom are located in the five sprawling refugee camps around Dadaab. Through work in Dadaab in June – August 2014, I learned that almost every educational project intends to empower learners. As an adult educator, I’m left to interrogate, what do we mean when we empower? How does a training program that is outside of traditional formal education empower? And what does this mean for Somali women who are refugees?

Using photography and video, I document the training and ask learners to document their own understanding of power and empowerment in their lives. I hand out cameras at the beginning of the training and collect them a few days after the training, when I conduct interviews with learners about the photos and their experience in the training.

RET is planning a training the day I arrive in Dadaab on youth advocacy around Sexual and Gender Based Violence,  a type of “training of trainers” program. This is a great opportunity for me to conduct the visual ethnographic research of empowerment for women learners.

While running errands and working all day Friday I felt particularly happy to see a marching band celebrating with volunteer raising awareness of public health concerns. It’s good to be back in Kenya.

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