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Sudanese refugee women becoming activists: The role of Popular Education

Magda M. A Ahmed, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Due to the disruption of refugee women's lives before, during, and after flight, they take on new roles and responsibilities that raise the need for refugee women to acquire new skills and tools with which to handle their new life. The conventional approach is to look at a refugee as a problem and a deficit, desperately in need of services rather than looking at refugees as having agency, motivated, strong, and able to solve their own problems. This has resulted in programs that are not intended to empower refugee women but rather to provide for them. The main purpose of this research was to understand Sudanese refugee women's activist experiences within their communities in order to explore and analyze the possibilities of using Popular Education methods and philosophies in the context of refugee women's lives. A second related purpose was to inquire into the extent to which Sudanese refugee women activists were themselves adapting and using Popular Education methods in their daily struggles. My assumption was that none of these activists were familiar enough with Popular Education techniques to utilize them in their everyday work and reduce the burden of being frustrated and burned out as a result. I assured that if you provide services plus activism you get reform within the existing system and there is no radical change: but if you provide Popular Education and activism you get radical change because you build awareness and you sustain empowerment. As a result of this research the author found that refugee women in general and activists in particular need more than support for their basic livelihood needs. They require skills development and educational interventions that help them to be participants in the decision-making process involved in what, how and where programs should to be developed. There is a strong need for an educational intervention that develops awareness and promotes change by refugee women themselves. The Sudanese refugee women activists in this study lacked the knowledge and the tools to implement Popular Education methodologies. All the activists in this study had some experience with non-formal educational pedagogy, but all of them lacked specific training that would enable them to use Popular Education approaches in their daily struggles. There is a great need to develop programs that adapt Popular Education philosophies and methods so that the claim of empowering refugee women becomes reality. Qualitative research methods were used including intensive one-on-one interviews and a focus group was conducted to explore and understand the life histories of Sudanese refugee women activists who live and work within their communities in Cairo Egypt and in the United States.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Ahmed, Magda M. A, "Sudanese refugee women becoming activists: The role of Popular Education" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110463.