IDS Recipients of Best Thesis Award for 2017

Left to rgiht: Madison Bradt, Becky Zelikson and Chantel Cole

The Centre for Critical Development Studies is pleased to award the 2017 Best Thesis Prize to Madison Bradt, Becky Zelikson and Chantel Cole (pictured above from left to right respectively)

Chantel’s work, titled “La Vida Tiene Que Ser En Conjunto: Contesting the Hegemony of Global Reproductive Health Policy Through the Voices of Maya Mam Women”, argues that global reproductive health policy and its privileging of individualistic rights-based ideologies represents a neo-colonial endeavor of superseding and relegating to the periphery the perspectives of sub-dominant populations, in the case of her study, Maya Mam women of Comitancillo, a community in rural Guatemala. Chantel’s work also embraces a postcolonial feminist perspective, demonstrating through the diverse voices and lived-experiences of these women that they are resilient in their everyday actions and decision-making surrounding their reproductive lives, ultimately proving that these dominating structures have not succeeded in overpowering their agency.

Currently, Chantel is the Executive Director of the newly launched Toronto Chapter of Women In International Security (WIIS) Canada. She is also working with Dr. Aisha Ahmad, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto, as her Research Assistant and Global Projects Coordinator. Chantel plans to disseminate the findings of her thesis with the organization that hosted her (Asociación Maya Mam de Investigación y Desarrollo, or Maya Mam Association for Research and Development) while she was in Guatemala, and is in the process of developing her thesis with the intention of publishing articles from it. She will also be presenting her research at conferences.


Becky’s work, titled The Rainbow Recast: Queering Karen Non-profits on the Thai-Burmese Border, investigates and challenges the understandings and attitudes towards homosexuality, bisexuality and gender non-conformity among Karen non-profit staff along the Thai-Myanmar border, as well as their implications for the sense of safety, acceptance, and inclusion of Karen sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGIE) minorities within these organizations.

She is currently teaching English to children in Miyazaki, Japan and hopes to work on publishing parts of her thesis and disseminating her findings back to relevant organizations in Thailand and Myanmar.


Madison’s work, “Sour Milk: Power, politics and the Malawian Dairy industry” analyzes the political economy of the Malawian dairy industry. Using a historical, state-centred approach and taking into account the current regulations on the dairy industry, the study examines power relations and corruption between different actors, including processing companies, government departments, NGOs, and farmer associations. Her finding shows the structure of Malawian Dairy industry to be fundamentally exploitative, where interest and profit of the wealthy and well-connected companies overshadow welfare of small-scale processors who make up the majority of producers. Madison’s research highlights the urgent need for researchers and NGOs to critically examine the politics and systemic exploitation within the said industry and its development.

Madison is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Migration Studies at the University of Oxford, UK.