Education in a humanitarian context: A case study of a peer education program for adolescent girls in two refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

PhD Thesis

Mahmoud, Sazan Madhi. 2021. Education in a humanitarian context: A case study of a peer education program for adolescent girls in two refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Education in a humanitarian context: A case study of a peer education program for adolescent girls in two refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorMahmoud, Sazan Madhi
1. FirstRobyn Henderson
2. Second Henk Huijser
2. SecondA/Pr Megan Kek
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages302
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Using a case study approach, this research examined a peer education program for Syrian adolescent girls living in the humanitarian context of two refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Through observations of the program in action and interviews with key stakeholders, including adolescent girls, peer educators and NGO staff, the study investigated three key questions: How do program implementers, peer educators, and peer education adolescent participants describe their experiences and involvement in the peer education program? How does a peer education program operate in practice within a refugee, humanitarian context? What do the stakeholder groups identify as the effects of the peer education program in the Iraqi Kurdistan context (i.e., adolescent girls, peer educators, and NGO staff)?

The study was framed by a 3P Peer Education Cell Model that was designed by the researcher. This model was inspired by Paulo Freire's (1993) work, specifically his notion of a pedagogy of the oppressed. Each research question was answered inductively through one of the three Ps – paradigm, pedagogy and praxis – enabling an examination of the program's purpose, how the learning took place, and its effects on those participating.

Through the peer education program, which was participatory in nature and situated in a humanitarian refugee camp context, it was possible to be responsive to the adolescent girls' uncertain lives. Unlike many of the peer education programs described in the literature, this program targeted life skills and a range of issues beyond sexual reproductive health, and including all forms of violence, hygiene, personal safety, mental wellbeing, harassment, coping with emotions, and early marriage. The aims were to empower the adolescent girls to make healthier decisions and provide them with the skills to cope with challenging everyday situations.

The study provides insights into how the peer education program operated in a refugee camp context. Based on the data and data analysis, a Peer Education Facilitation Cycle has been developed. This cycle demonstrates the peer education program's raising of awareness and creating change through a four-stage learning process of experiential learning, reflection, conscientizacao (or critical consciousness), and praxis.

The study shows that the peer educators employed participatory learning methods. The participatory methods enabled change – transformation – in the lives of the adolescent girls. The effects were improvements in four transformative areas: communication skills, coping emotionally, rethinking conditions and building confidence.

The study concludes that there is vast potential for peer education within refugee camp settings to support adolescent girls, and possibly others, to cope with new and challenging life events, and in the process transform their lives. Such educational work has implications for those working in humanitarian contexts, including government institutions, local and international non-governmental organisations, and educators making efforts to make a difference in conflict and post-conflict societies, and above all for the adolescent girls themselves.

KeywordsFreire, humanitarian contexts, life skills, pedagogy, peer education, refugee camp, refugees
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390412. Teacher and student wellbeing
441013. Sociology of migration, ethnicity and multiculturalism
390199. Curriculum and pedagogy not elsewhere classified
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.

Byline AffiliationsSchool of Education
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