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Contributing factors to the development of positive responses to the adversity endured by Sierra Leonean refugee women living in the United Kingdom

Sesay, Margaret Konima (2015) Contributing factors to the development of positive responses to the adversity endured by Sierra Leonean refugee women living in the United Kingdom. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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The basic rationale of this research was to identify as many relevant factors and issues as possible that have enabled Sierra Leonean women emerging from a brutal civil/rebel war in Sierra Leone to develop resilience( “To spring back into shape” –Oxford English Dictionary) and Adversity-Activated Development(AAD) as they resettled, integrated and became part of their new communities. Their resilience enabled them to adapt successfully in the face of threats and disaster into a new society, environment and community in the United Kingdom (UK). This was despite the fact that they had endured many different types of adversity, including sexual and psychological violence during the civil/rebel war in Sierra Leone. The research examined various relevant and contributing factors, including personal, professional, family and community circumstances, status, attitudes, religious belief systems, social networks as well as behaviours. It also investigated the unique way that Sierra Leonean refugee women (a) experienced adversity (connected with the civil war in Sierra Leone), (b) addressed adversity at different stages (e.g. during the war, their flight, their transition through various, countries, refugee camps and also during their final phase of resettlement in the UK), and (c) integrated into their new communities. This research is based on the theoretical framework developed by Papadopoulos who: (a) Mapped out the four stages of the refugee experiences, i.e. Anticipation, Devastating Events, Survival and Adjustment (Papadopoulos, 1999), and (b) Differentiated the range of responses to adversity by using the Trauma / Adversity Grid that includes not only the negative responses but also the retained positives (i.e. resilient dimensions) as well the new positives that were the direct result of being exposed to adversity, that he termed Adversity-Activated development (AAD). (Papadopoulos 2004, 2007). The research followed a qualitative research methodology and took into account a gendered perspective on the views and personal experiences of Sierra Leonean refugee women living and working in the United Kingdom (U.K.). The data was collected through in-depth interviews, semi-structured questionnaires, group meetings and individual sessions with the participants, who are all Sierra Leonean refugee women living and working in the United Kingdom (UK). These participants had all been granted full refugee status. They were given time to complete questionnaires and they were also interviewed about their life histories using the heuristic method, theory and approach. This allowed the participants and the researcher to experience self-awareness and self-knowledge throughout the research process, while understanding the phenomenon of the factors that led to the resilience of these Sierra Leonean refugee women. Particular attention was paid to understanding the cultural framework (the use of traditional and cultural values and practices), coping mechanisms and capacities, integration and participation of these participants as well as to the wider psychosocial dimensions of their experience and how these women were able to adapt successfully to a completely new unknown environment, integrating and resettling into new ways of life in the United Kingdom (UK) despite all their traumatic experiences. The research also investigated the multidisciplinary nature of the care of refugees in general and how this relates to some of the specific issues affecting refugees, including their socio-economic development, human rights, cultural and traditional disorientation and dislocation, and sought to connect these to the loss of home, personal identity and community for refugees. The research is extremely topical, especially right now at this very moment in time when the world is facing an unparalleled crisis with migrant and refugees streaming into more developed countries, particularly in Europe. This refugee crisis created a lot of emotional responses in everybody, it touches the sensitivities of people, some react with fear and horror that their safe countries will be invaded by unruly and uneducated refugees that would burden their already economically stretched countries and others react with compassion wanting to open up their homes and welcome these troubled refugees who had to flee their unsafe countries looking for places of refuge. What happens in these situations, people see the refugees as a threat, as an additional burden and they cannot possibly see that these people may be in a position to help their host country and enable it to thrive. This research has shown that these Sierra Leonean women that came to the UK following the horrors of the civil war in their country certainly they did not prove to be a burden on the UK. On the contrary, they not only survived and supported each other but they also thrived and contributed to the development of the local communities where they settled. Therefore this research can be used as a proof that there is no justification to bring all the refugees under one umbrella and consider all of them as a burden to the host country. What this research also shows is that it is important to allow refugees tell their own story and help them digest their experiences and identify the various factors that contributed to them being able to survive and thrive.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Margaret Sesay
Date Deposited: 07 Apr 2016 16:10
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2018 02:00

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