My research is situated at the intersection of security, global governance, and African feminist theory. In particular, I am interested in women’s security, especially as interpreted by and through the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations in West Africa. I examine the role of local and national women’s organizations to understand how they advocate for and support women in conflict and post-conflict situations, especially in response to UN Security Council's Women, Peace, and Security agenda.
My dissertation, Advocating for Themselves: Seeking Security Through Women’s Peacebuilding Organizations in Cote d’Ivoire, is a study of the UN Security Council’s Women, Peace, and Security agenda and how it is implemented in Côte dʼIvoire. I examine local and national women’s security and peacebuilding organizations’ understandings of security and the ways they establish and advocate for their priorities while working with the United Nations, transnational NGOs, and the national government. Much of the prior research on this topic suggests that international efforts to implement this agenda clash with national and local priorities. But I demonstrate that the reality is more complex: while multiple international and transnational discourses have sometimes-competing, sometimes-cooperating effects on the local implementation, Ivorian women’s understandings of security also shape the agenda' implementation. To understand the local dynamic of women's advocacy, I interviewed local NGO, government, and UN representatives and conducted participant observation over eleven months in Cote d’Ivoire, funded by a Fulbright Fellowship. I make three central arguments. The first is that two kinds of global actors—international and transnational—try to shape the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, but they do so in distinctive ways: through the state and bypassing it, resulting in poorly coordinated directives. The second is that this agenda in Côte dʼIvoire has narrowed to a focus on security sector reform at the national level, with the assistance of international actors, which privileges mechanisms of traditional security and co-opts women into existing structures of power. Third, local women’s organizations perform a pragmatic skepticism, working with international, transnational, and national actors to achieve their own goals, reclaiming some of the essentializing discourses told about them. With insights from African feminism and critical feminist peacebuilding literatures, my findings call into question the assumptions of women's roles in international security policies and the interrelation of actors in policy implementation.