Like most researchers who use semi-structured interviews, I start off with a fairly routine set of questions – tell me about your organization; what aspect of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda do you focus on; what are your successes so far and what are the challenges you face – though we inevitably get very specific to the organization, their donors, and their target population.
After one interview, the president of the organization I was visiting introduced me to one of her assistants who, as part of a women’s empowerment project supported by her employer, makes organic soap in her home to be sold in the markets.
She invited me to her house to see the project and quickly made some sample soap with the assistance of her son and a couple other neighborhood boys. I don’t even remember the whole process, but the chemistry of the thing and the quality of the soap was amazing!
And now I have the product for myself and for gifts. I don’t want to give platitudes about helping poor women in Mali or that this could completely change her life or whatever, but I’m quite pleased that I got to directly support one of the women I met personally through my work – and that I have such a practical, quality souvenir from Mali.
Edited 27 December 2016:
I wrapped them with brown paper and some Japanese paper that I had stashed away from a few years ago to give away as New Year's gifts!
I love doing fieldwork. Love meeting people and learning about their lives and where they live and how they work. And I love traveling to conferences, again meeting new people and learning about their research and thinking more about mine, plus visiting new cities.
Last month, I got the opportunity to travel to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, to attend, present at, and assist at a conference sponsored by The CIHA Blog, for which I am an editorial assistant. Once again, the conference was wonderful, a place to catch up with old colleagues and meet new ones. Please read more about the conference and the broad swatch of issues related to religion, humanitarianism, and governance that we discussed.
Then, because it was my first time in South Africa and since I was already there, I took 10 days to drive from Durban to Cape Town – along the Wild Coast, the Garden Route, and into Wine Country. I was so impressed by the diversity of the landscape and the beauty of the coastline especially.
No major stories happened, good or bad, just a relaxing vacation where I got to meet new people, see new things, and learn new lessons about culture, race, gender, and politics.
Travel and research notes
Fieldwork and travel in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Mali, as well as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tanzania, South Africa, and wherever else I end up. Plus occasional research-related thoughts.