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Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

The Fraxinus Charitable Trust Scholarship - Getting beyond the white western gaze on the 'poor African woman'


Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

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Dr A Mdee No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Leeds United Kingdom Development Studies Gender Studies Government Public Policy Socio Economics

About the Project

Full project title: Getting beyond the white western gaze on the 'poor African woman'. Challenging racial stereotypes and western feminist assumptions in development through a collaborative exploration of water governance in Northern Ghana.

The empowerment of women and girls now holds a central place in the development mainstream and is articulated in SDG 5 as equity in political representation, education and labour markets. Every development agency, project and programme express their (paper-based) commitment to these ideals. The 'poor African woman/ girl' is a much heard about stereotyped figure who requires 'empowerment' through microfinance loans, the provision of sanitary towels or finding her 'voice' in meetings. This characterisation is simplistic and wrong and is based on a white western gaze on the black African woman. It leads to poor programming and policy and fails substantially to transform the structural conditions that create inequality. Yet it is powerful because it is supported by the financial and intellectual might of the development industry.

There are alternative conceptualisations rooted in African (and African-American) scholarship, such as Africana Womanism but they tend to be unheard in the mainstream. This proposal is for a PhD project to work on both the intellectual and empirical application of this area of scholarship.

There are three clear aims for this project:

1. To develop a coherent intellectual framework for understanding gender and marginalisation that is rooted in African scholarship.

2. Apply this framework to an empirical study of water governance in Northern Ghana.

3. To support the intellectual and career development of an early career academic at The University of Development Studies, in Wa, Ghana; and to contribute to building institutional expertise and capacity in this area.

The project is designed as a collaboration whereby the student will divide their time between The University of Development Studies, Wa, Ghana and The University of Leeds. This mode of studentship will lay the foundations for building an academic partnership for longer term collaboration.

The candidate will work with a supervisory team based in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds, and at the University of Development Studies in Wa, Ghana.

Dr Constance Akurugu is a Lecturer in Sociology and Gender at the University of Development Studies, Wa, Ghana. She has a PhD from Newcastle University. Dr Akurugu is an anthropologist exploring transnational feminism in understanding gendered inequalities in sub-Saharan Africa. She is working with local government and NGOs on increasing access to safe water and sanitation in Northern Ghana.

Dr Winnie Bedigen is an expert on gender, culture and peacebuilding. She is currently a Teaching Assistant with the University of Leeds. Dr Bedigen is an expert on indigenous forms of conflict resolution in South Sudan and has a wider interest in African feminism. 

Prof Anna Mdee has more than 20 years of experience of academic and consultancy research on international development interventions in sub-Saharan Africa (and globally) and will facilitate this project. She is an anthropologist specialising in water and local governance and is currently leading the policy and governance work in the £20million GCRF Water Security Hub led by Newcastle University. She is a specialist in building Higher Education partnerships and recently received awards for her impact and mentoring work. She is currently the co-Director of the Centre for Global Development at the University of Leeds.


Funding Notes

This Scholarship is available to international students (outside of the UK). It covers full International fees and a maintenance allowance of £15,285. There will also be an additional allowance for fieldwork and travel costs. The Scholarship is for 3 years (conditional on successful progression each year).


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