Alicia's work investigates the impact of global policies seeking to prevent and prohibit the use of sexual violence in war on armed group practices of rape and other related offenses in conflict situations. Alicia will speak about her research on April 12 at (Re)searching for Social Justice.
There is more attention to the issue of sexual violence in war today than ever before. When explaining conflict-related sexual violence, however, most scholarship focuses on the internal characteristics of the armed groups responsible for wartime rape. Yet, armed actors do not operate outside of external constraints and opportunities for violence, including sexual violence. Building on her professional experience working in sub-Saharan Africa, Alicia’s doctoral work seeks to investigate the impact of the United Nations (UN) Women, Peace and Security Agenda and international prohibitions on sexual violence in war, on armed group practices of rape and other-related offenses in conflict. Drawing on extended local fieldwork from South Sudan and elsewhere, her proposed research combines the rich detail of ethnographic interviews with survey experiments and conflict mapping.
What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?
Being a public scholar means carrying out action-oriented research that seeks to bridge the traditional gap between academics and policymakers, utilizing research to inform practice on the real world issues that matter most to today’s PhD students. I want to use my research to unite theory and praxis, investigating the effectiveness of international policies and laws on armed group practices of sexual violence in war.
In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?
I think the PhD experience could be re-imagined to emphasize the real world engagement of today’s young scholars, encouraging PhD students to think more critically about the practical implications of their research and what they can learn from wearing “multiple hats.” I know that my approach to research and my PhD more generally has been greatly informed by my work in the not-for-profit sector and I don’t think I would be where I am without the experiences and partnerships that I fostered as a result of that work.
How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?
Young people more than ever before have the opportunity to re-envisage different, non-traditional career paths. We don’t have to be exclusively academics, or exclusively policymakers. As others have done before us, we can do both and that’s exactly where I see myself. I hope to be able to continue carrying out high-level research and teaching the next generation of young, hopefully publicly engaged scholars, while I continue my work in the not-for-profit and policy sector.
How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?
Because I was fortunate enough to have worked in the not-for-profit sector over the past number of years I have a network of local, regional and international partners who I continuously consult with in the course of my research. I have also made a point of continuing to work for NGOs and other policy actors during my PhD so that I can use my research and expertise to inform policies for preventing and responding to sexual violence in war. I did this most recently when I conducted research for an international human rights organization and their partners in civil society in South Sudan, which we are currently using to support the development of a zero draft bill on sexual and gender-based violence and other efforts aimed at enhancing accountability within the military and access to justice for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
Having worked in the not-for-profit sector in places like South Sudan, Somalia and Uganda over the past five-plus years I recognize the importance of research to well-informed intervention strategies and I felt that pursuing a graduate degree was the best way that I could contribute to ongoing policy discussions about preventing sexual violence in war.
Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?
It was really the diversity of UBC’s campus that attracted me most. UBC embraces interdisciplinary and multifaceted research that doesn’t confine itself to disciplinary boundaries. Coming to UBC I felt I had an opportunity to think critically and creatively about issues of sexual violence in conflict, drawing on multiple theoretical and methodological traditions to address those issues in an impactful way.
I want to use my research to unite theory and praxis, investigating the effectiveness of international policies and laws on armed group practices of sexual violence in war".