2018 IDS Thesis Award Winners

Left: Helen Ketema, Right: Tian Lin

The Centre for Critical Development Studies is pleased to award the 2018 Best Thesis Prize to Helen Ketema and Tian Lin (pictured above from left to right respectively)

Helen Ketema

Helen is a recent graduate from of the IDS Co-op Specialist program at UTSC. She completed her ten month co-op placement with the Population Council in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Helen conducted her thesis research on domestic work and labour migration in Ethiopia, focusing on Ethiopian women returning from Gulf states in the Middle East.

As a recent graduate of the International Development Program at the University of Toronto Scarborough, Helen is interested in utilizing her skills and experience in research, information management, and program planning, to explore issues such as global health and migrant labour across various contexts.

This purpose of this thesis is to explore how the discourse on Ethiopian women’s labour migration to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states is constructed, and how it impacts notions of labour migration amongst domestic workers both locally and transnationally. During field work in Addis Ababa, I interviewed ‘transnational domestic workers’, or women who had worked in domestic labour in GCC countries and returned to Ethiopia, and also local Ethiopian domestic workers. In addition, I analyzed media and policy discourse on migrant domestic workers both in Gulf countries and Ethiopia. Within the context of “Saudization” policies and deportations of migrant workers across the region, transnational domestic workers face both criminalization in the Saudi news media, while Ethiopian media and policy invokes paternalistic and gendered notions of vulnerability which fail to address the structural causes of the mistreatment faced by domestic workers under the GCC migrant labour system. I found that in addition to the intersectional barriers faced by women in Ethiopia, hierarchies of modernity formed around urban populations reinforce the motivation for migration as a means for social mobility. Despite wide spread local awareness of the risk of facing deportation, xenophobia/racism, and violence at work, the movement of Ethiopian women to the Gulf is ongoing and often cyclical.

Tian Lin

Tian Lin has recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Development Studies with High Distinction at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, where she specialized in land use and environment. While studying at the University of Toronto, Tian held the role as a research assistant under the Centre for Critical Development Studies, as well as under the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences. She has worked at the intersection of policy and forest management in Southeast Asia and has completed a thesis on community forestry and climate change adaptation in Myanmar. In addition to her extensive undergraduate training in natural resource management, Tian has a strong interest in using spatial analysis tools to examine the impacts of climate change on socioenvironmental systems for her Master’s research. She will be joining Carleton University’s Master program in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies this coming Fall.

With growing attention to community-based adaptation, non-profit organizations are promoting community forestry as a means to improve people’s ability to adapt to climate change. Despite interest in using community forestry as an adaptation strategy, few studies have looked into the relationship between community forestry and climate change adaptation. Using a sustainable livelihood assets framework, my research assesses the potential contribution of community forestry to climate change adaptation in Myanmar. I chose Myanmar as my case study because it is ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, has a national community forestry program, and is undergoing a series of land reforms, which present suitable opportunities to develop recommendations to relevant stakeholders. Through my primary fieldwork in two villages in the dry zone of Myanmar, I found that community forestry has improved communities’ human and social capital but has fallen short in delivering tangible socioeconomic benefits. So, while community forestry increases community engagement in natural resource management, in absence of tangible benefits to the community, the contribution of community forestry as an adaptation strategy may be limited.