Continuum of success: a case study of Colombian refugee women in Canada

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Victimization is the dominant representation of women in war and armed conflict zones. This representation is extensive in the literature. In such settings they have, for the most part, been symbolized primarily as passive victims. Little documentation is available on women as agents of change within war zones, or about the learning, knowledge and exercise of agency that women deploy to survive the vicissitudes of violent environments. Where there is such documentation, it tends to be ad hoe, fragmented and/or limited in scope. In this dissertation I explore the mechanisms by which Colombian women war survivors, who were internally displaced in Colombia and are now living in Canada as refugees, exercised agency to learn and build knowledge and transcend the limitations of their situations. In particular, how they made use of this knowledge to restore their lives in a new society. This exploratory study uses qualitative research methodologies that incorporate appreciative inquiry, feminist perspectives and modified grounded theory. A semistructured interview was used to collect personal narratives from the 17 participants. Findings show that fear continued to haunt each of the participants as a consequence of the violence they suffered. Even so, the majority of participants were able to identify successful experiences in the asylum zone, and to a lesser degree in their displacement and in their original places, the armed conflict zones. Further, using situational analysis, five indicators of women's success were developed: possibilities, family and community, resources, good life, and English language. The indicators help to situate the participants within a continuum of success that uses victimization and agency as its poles. They integrate contentious topics that emerged in the data analysis. This continuum helps to visualize these successes in a more fluid pattern that may help in future research in this area and contributes to a new perspective of women exposed to armed conflict and war. In doing this, it also provides more holistic insights to designing policies, services and supports for women survivors of war, internally displaced and refugee women.
Bibliography: p. 192-207
Munoz, M. (2011). Continuum of success: a case study of Colombian refugee women in Canada (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/4569