Published on Development for Peace

Young African scholars making a difference to improve the quality of life for the forcibly displaced

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Le groupe de chercheuses interviewées dans cet article. Le groupe de chercheuses interviewées dans cet article.

A surge in violent conflict since 2010 has led to historically high levels of forced displacement. Many affected people have lost assets and livelihoods and have no clear path towards a more hopeful future.   Many suffer from trauma, and women and girls are at high-risk of interpersonal and gender-based violence.  To examine the effects that forced displacement is having on the most vulnerable, the World Bank recruited 10 young scholars who spent a year working as part of the African Young Fellows Program between July 2018 and June 2019. 

For these scholars one of the biggest challenges for their research projects was to find data on the long-term effects of forced displacement, including gender-based violence and the negative impact on children’s health. Recently, the African Fellows alumni got together to discuss these challenges, as well as their experiences in the fellowship program.  Because these scholars represent countries that are affected by conflict and violence, the conversations were especially enlightening and heartfelt. Below is an extract of that conversation with Aissata Coulibaly (Cote D’Ivoire), Claudia Noumedem Temgoua (Cameroon), Kevwe Pela (Nigeria), Soazic Elise Wang Sonne (Cameroon), and Uche Ekhator (Nigeria).

Why did you apply to the DFID-World Bank Africa Fellows Program?

Kevwe: I’ve witnessed the Boko Haram insurgency and militant activities and how they’ve affected the livelihoods of people. By joining the program and the World Bank, I felt it would be a good way for me to help these people improve their quality of life. I wanted to contribute to making an impact for the most vulnerable population.

Aissata: I applied for the fellowship because of its FCV focus. I’m from Cote D’Ivoire, which is a post-conflict country with many development challenges. We also have Ivorian refugees in neighboring countries, and I was also interested in the impact of forced displacement. The fellowship was an opportunity to study these issues.

What were some challenges you encountered as you worked on your research topics? 

Uche: The very obvious challenge with research–what is the right data and methodology to use. In my case researching intimate-partner violence, I had an important research question, but how would I empirically examine this evidence in order to provide quantitative results useful for policy? A challenge for research in gender-based violence is the lack of data, for reasons that include people’s unwillingness to talk about being abused. I remember spending the first few months just trying to figure that out. 

Claudia: One of the biggest challenges was that we were given just one year to produce two quality, publishable research papers. Given the limited amount of data and existing literature at this time for our chosen topics, it was very challenging. This could have taken a longer time, but we all put every effort into completing this task in the time we were given. 

How was your experience collaborating and co-authoring your papers with colleagues in the World Bank and elsewhere? 

Uche: I had a great experience. One of the things I have come to learn as a result from this fellowship is that in development, you really want to consider the perspectives of others. It’s less important for me to say that I did this piece of work on my own, because this is no longer  full-blown economic research. But this is evidence and research that is going to be read by policymakers and make a difference. 

Kevwe: To add to that point, through the fellowship, we work with the Bank’s lead practitioners in the field, and we work as partners. At the end of the day, we want our work to be relevant and start discussions that can help the development agenda.

What are you currently doing, now that the one-year fellowship has concluded?

Kevwe: I was fortunate to get into the World Bank Young Professionals program, and the fellowship played a big role. I am working in the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice in the Middle East and North Africa region, particularly in Iraq. We are doing a graduation pilot to see if cash transfers have an impact on moving people out of poverty. 

Aissata: My experience is similar to that of Kevwe. Because of this fellowship, I joined the Bank as a Young Professional. I have met a lot of talented young people in their field such as these fellows and I am very happy and hope we will continue to work together. I will be working on development issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central Africa Republic, where there are issues of internal displacement as well as refugees.

Uche: My research paper is co-authored with a lead economist in the Gender unit and going forward, I am working on getting it published to build the evidence on gender and conflict. We will be expanding our work to look at the effect of conflict on household composition. This topic is close to my heart and I want to keep working to advocate for gender issues, especially in conflict settings. 

Elise: Right after the end of my fellowship, I joined the Social Development Global Practice as a Young Professional supporting the unit on the Development Response Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) in the horn of Africa. The main aim is to assess the socio-economic impacts of a community-drive development intervention aiming at building trust and social cohesion between refugees and hosts communities. 

This fellowship is part of the program “Building the Evidence on Protracted Forced Displacement: A Multi-Stakeholder Partnership" funded by UK aid from the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID).


Rebecca Ong

Communications Consultant

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