Theatre School on Resistance
As part of my PhD research, I designed and co-facilitated a 14-week Theatre School with The Seed in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Based on Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) and Pedagogy of the Oppressed (PO) techniques, this participatory project used theatre to illuminate the experiences of second-generation Black and Muslim youth in the Netherlands in terms of belonging, citizenship and resistance.
The final performance was based on stories shared by the youth. For the final performance, we used Forum Theatre to involve the audience in rehearsing resistance to situations of racism and Islamophobia. Funded by the TD Fellowship in Migration and Diaspora Studies (Carleton University), I designed an eight-session manual for educators based on the Theatre School for Resistance. I also created a short video of the final performance showcasing Forum Theatre in action. For more information, visit my Theatre page.
Under the supervision of Dr. Jacqueline Kennelly, I helped design and implement the research phase of “Encountering Democracy”: a participatory action research project designed to elicit homeless and formerly homeless youths’ perspectives on citizenship and democracy and to culminate in an action or advocacy project with the youth in Ottawa, Canada. I co-facilitated many focus groups with eight to ten homeless or marginally-housed youth, and co-conducted walking interviews, mapping exercises, and a photography project with homeless youth.
Encountering Democracy culminated in a participatory film project with the youth, supported by local filmmaker Ben Hoskyn. Youth advocated for the themes of decriminalizing marijuana, transitioning out of homelessness, and youth-police relations. The films and the resource manual for educators are available here.
In various official and unofficial capacities over the last ten years, I have collaborated with the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI), a non-profit dedicated to increasing the voice of marginalized women in city decision-making. With CAWI, I contributed to the Community Facilitation Guide, a handbook on facilitation techniques, and have facilitated multiple training sessions for low-income tenants and social service partners on neighbourhood community development and civic engagement. I have also mentored and trained women and low-income tenants in neighbourhood capacity building.
As Community Development Manager at Ottawa Community Housing, I developed a partnership with the City-wide coalition Making Votes Count. Funded by the Ontario Trillium and the Catherine Donnelly Foundations, this three-year action research project aims to empower low income residents to raise their views within electoral processes and in ongoing civic engagement. This project is now an ongoing initiative in Ottawa.
On the Research Committee, I co-designed participatory research tools and trained community facilitators to do focus groups on civic involvement in their neighbourhoods. I also led a one day workshop with 25 community facilitators to analyze results of the 20 focus group sessions using participatory analytical tools. On the Fun Committee, I designed a social media strategy to promote voting, including a selfie campaign “I vote because…”. I also co-created a city-wide neighbourhood competition to reward innovative and creative community organizing strategies. As a doctoral student, my students connected to this project through a course designed to increase the student vote during the 2015 Canadian federal elections.
Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) Food Security and Community Gardens
As Community Development Manager with OCH from 2010 to 2014, I developed a partnership with Hidden Harvest to plant and harvest fruit and nut trees on OCH property, and built multiple community gardens in OCH neighbourhoods. I also developed the Community Garden Guides, three seasonal manuals for tenants interested in starting a community garden. I collaborated with social service organizations expand Good Food Markets and the Market Mobile to low-income communities that are food deserts. In collaboration with the City of Ottawa, my team introduced composting and improved recycling practices in 30 neighbourhoods.
Representing Ottawa Community Housing at the Community Development Framework (CDF) from 2010-2014, I led the development, with other community organizations, of the Creating the Change We Want training manual for community leaders. In addition to developing three training modules for this manual, I trained staff and tenant leaders on the use of this manual. It is now widely used in communities across the City of Ottawa to train tenant leaders in capacity building and leadership skills.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Negotiating Women’s Political Space During Violence in Gujarat, India
As an International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Research Awardee in 2007, I designed and conducted research in Gujarat, India examining how women became politicized following the 2002 communal riots. In particular, I investigated how two women’s organizations worked with Hindu and Muslim women to politicize women’s issues such as domestic violence and to work against the politicization and instrumentalization of communal tension. I held focus groups and semi-structured interviews with women from multiple organizations and political parties in Ahmedabad and Baroda and analyzed how women’s organizations and political parties fostered social cohesion and political agency. I also observed and participated in the work of these organizations with women affected by violence in marginalized neighbourhoods.
A Mystical Army: Women, Voice, and Power in the Casamance Conflict (Senegal)
Stemming out of two years prior work experience in Senegal, I conducted three months of field work in Casamance, Senegal for my Master’s. Working closely with a local women’s peace movement, I looked at how different forms of power were used by women to influence the formal political peace process.
The separatist conflict in Casamance is one of the longest ongoing conflicts in West Africa. My research demonstrates how the women’s peace movement applies their cultural influence and leverage to formal peace negotiations, with impressive results, thus expressing agency and claiming formal political space for women. I published the results of this research in the Canadian Journal of African Studies. I obtained funding for this research from the Canada-Corps program of Universities Canada (formerly AUCC), SSHRC’s Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Masters’ Scholarship, and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship.