GSSWSR Student Wins Fulbright to Research Women’s Education in Ghana

Posted May 13th, 2010 at 2:51 pm.

turner-zogbekorHow does adult education benefit women in Ghana, their families, and their communities? Kyra Turner-Zogbekor, a Ph.D. candidate in social work and social research, will use a Fulbright Research Grant to investigate that question next year in Accra, Ghana.

Turner-Zogbekor will collaborate with the University of Ghana‘s Center for Gender Studies and Advocacy and its Institute of Continuing and Distance Education.

“As in all of West Africa, there are educational disparities based on gender in Ghana, especially in middle and secondary schooling,” Turner-Zogbekor says, “But the adult education program I’ll be studying is aimed directly at rectifying those disparities by educating adult women whose schooling was interrupted when they were young.”

“The research will be primarily qualitative,” Turner-Zogbekor explains. “I’ll interview women enrolled in the program about what motivated them to go back to school, what they hope to gain from it, how their families and communities will benefit, and what challenges and barriers they faced. I’ll ask them what they would say if they had a chance to talk to the people who make educational policy.”

Turner-Zogbekor says that the women’s answers to initial, open-ended questions will shape the direction of her research, which she will supplement with field observation.

“My hope is that this addition to the literature on adult education will ultimately have an impact on policy, not only in Ghana, but in other African nations,” she says.

Darlyne Bailey, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, was delighted to learn of Turner-Zogbekor’s award.

“The Fulbright is a signal about the scholarship of the individual, the values of the institution the individual represents, and the timely importance of the area of study,” Bailey says.

According to Bailey, the Fulbright awarded to Turner-Zogbekor is an indication of a conscious embrace of international awareness on the part of the GSSWSR, in concert with the global mission of the College as a whole. The GSSWSR will host a Fulbright scholar from South Africa next year, she says, and members of its faculty are collaborating with colleagues in the undergraduate college to create a course  on global perspectives of social justice.

A native of Connecticut who graduated from Hampton University with a B.A. in sociology, Turner-Zogbekor has longstanding interests both in women’s issues and in Africa. After earning a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, she joined the Peace Corps and spent just over two years volunteering for a girls’ education and empowerment program in the West African nation of Togo.

“My service in the Peace Corps really focused and solidified my interest,” Turner-Zogbekor said. In Togo, she observed at close range some of the barriers to education that face girls across much of Africa. She left with a determination to return to Africa to add her voice to the call for equality of opportunity for women.

Her Peace Corps service also introduced her to her husband, Messan Zogbekor, who is now a full-time student at Cheyney University.

Upon returning to the United States, Turner-Zogbekor worked as a foster-care social worker in Connecticut before moving to Philadelphia, where she works for the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services. She entered the Ph.D. program at Bryn Mawr in 2007.

“I was straightforward about my interest in international social work,” Turner-Zogbekor says, “and the Bryn Mawr program was very supportive. I was matched with courses and faculty members who could help me. I’ve been able to take courses that included material about international programs and to pursue an independent study focused on social work and research in Africa, so I feel well prepared for my Fulbright project.”

Ghana, where Turner-Zogbekor will conduct her Fulbright research, neighbors Togo, where she did her Peace Corps service and met her husband. Despite their proximity, the nations differ in several important particulars, she notes.

“Togo is poorer and much more rural than Ghana,” she observes, “and of course, the official language in Ghana is English rather than French.”

The primary motivation for her selection of Ghana as a research site, however, is the adult-education program she will study at the University of Ghana, Legon Campus in Accra.

“Dean Michelle Mancini gave me great advice about applying for the Fulbright,” Turner-Zogbekor says. “She impressed on me the importance of finding strong partners in the host country, and because of her, I began making connections with the University of Ghana early on.”

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