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Challenging assumptions of vulnerability: the significance of
gender in the work, lives and identities of women human rights

Author(s) Lajoie, Amie

Date 2018-02-16

Item record

Page 2

Challenging assumptions of vulnerability: the significance

of gender in the work, lives and identities of

women human rights defenders

A thesis submitted to the National University of Ireland, Galway in fulfilment of the

thesis requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Amie Lajoie BA, MA

School of Political Science and Sociology

College of Arts, Social Science and Celtic Studies

National University of Ireland, Galway


Professor Niamh Reilly

February 2018

Page 139

Part III: Literature Review and Methodology


interact regularly with international actors invested in the HRD framework, I believe

that these women expected more direct questions relating to their work and the risks

they face, versus questions concerning their identity as women. This was certainly the

case with my first interview with Hope from Zimbabwe. I decided after my

conversation with Hope that I would alter the order in which I asked my questions. I

commenced the remaining interviews by asking more general questions concerning

was a more useful strategy than asking questions about their gender identities from the

outset. I did find that some women were very uncomfortable with the questions related

to their female gender


In the following section is a table of the 11 women I interviewed and their occupations

in the field of human rights. A more detailed account of their local contexts in which

they work

record, is found in Appendix A. The

rights activities below are based on her own words as provided in her questionnaire

and interview. To protect anonymity, I use pseudonyms and offer only basic details

Sandy, Uganda Sandy works with a major human rights network to monitor and

report on the situation of LGBTI persons in Uganda. She has been

an LGBTI activist for over 12 years.



Yasmeen has worked for a prominent human rights NGO in

Bahrain since 2010. She focuses on advocacy, networking as well

extensive experience engaging with international human rights




Veronika is a human rights lawyer, active on issues pertaining to

civil and political rights, specifically working on cases concerning

the right to freedom of assembly and expression. She has been

active in her field for over 15 years, with previous experience such

as working for the Russian chapter of Amnesty International.

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Part III: Literature Review and Methodology


Hannah, Kenya Hannah has been active as a human rights lawyer for 23 years. She

currently works on issues concerning the rights of indigenous

people, particularly related to the control of land and natural

resources in Eastern Kenya.



Sophia is a human rights lawyer in Malaysia, working for a

prominent legal NGO that provides urgent arrest services and

legal advice to political prisoners. Her work concerns the

protection of civil liberties and prosecuting extrajudicial killings.



Karina is a former University lecturer in political science and a

current human rights advocate. She works for an Osh-based NGO

that offers legal support to activists, while also advocating for civil

and political rights and the rights of migrant workers and

minorities. She has been active in the NGO sector since 2006.

Nawal, Pakistan A lawyer by training and a human rights activist, Nawal campaigns

for online safety and internet access in Pakistan. She has been

active in her work since 2012.

Talia, Sudan Talia has been active in the field of human rights advocacy for

over 27 years. She currently works as a project manager in the

area of governance and human rights. Her previous human rights

work focused on violence against women, civil and political rights,

and personal and security training for human rights activists.

Myra, India

documenting rights abuses during armed conflict. She has worked

in this sector for over 20 years.



Hope is a human rights lawyer, working in public interest

litigation and lobbying. She has been active in her role as a human

rights advocate for over 10 years.

Page 278



associate or family member, then I will not invite the defender to participate in my
study. There is a very slim probability that my questions will incite strong emotional
reactions from project participants, but to avoid provoking potential triggers I will
implement the following research safeguards:

The well-being of the defender will, at all times, be of primary importance over the
needs of the research.
Participants will have given their full, voluntary consent to take part in the data

Ample opportunity will be provided for the participant to ask any questions that she
may have prior to commencement of the interview(s).
The possibility of emotional discomfort or distress will be clearly outlined to the
participant in written form by the initial invitation and project information sheet as
well as verbally by me.
The questionnaire will include a final question asking whether or not the participant,
based on the material asked on the questionnaire, feel they could be at potential risk of
becoming negatively affected emotionally during any individual/group interview. Any
participant that has such apprehensions will not be asked for an interview.

-being when engaging
her in introspective discussions, and the choice not to answer any question or discuss
any topic during the interviews, along with the option to stop the interview at any time,
will be clearly communicated.
I have full knowledge of local counseling support services and emergency services (in
Dublin, York and Galway) that I can direct participants to in the case of emotional
distress or other injury during the interview process.
A de-briefing conversation will conclude each individual interview, during which the
participant will be encouraged to ask any questions and discuss how they are feeling.
Each participant will have my NUI Galway email address, Skype name and phone
number, and will be encouraged to contact me after the interview/focus group if they
have any information they would like to discuss further.
The participant will be able to withdraw from the study even after the interview
process, at any point leading up to publication as a PhD thesis.
Prior to publication, I will send each participant a list of the direct quotes I wish to use
from them, and they will have the option of reviewing their statements and redacting
any or all involvement they had in the research. They will not have this option after

I have prior experience working with WHRDs as well as carrying out interviews and
qualitative data collection. I am confident I will be able to respond in a competent and
appropriate manner should any difficulties or negative outcomes arise during the

The following ethical considerations will be given priority in the execution of my

- Confidentiality/anonymity. I will take all necessary steps in order to ensure
participants cannot be directly identified from any of the data when findings are

- Accurate representation of data collected. I will afford the various layers of data
from the different phases of collection in the process with equal respect and
attention to ensure this.

- Concern over compromising relationship with international institution. I will
make clear the fact that the affiliation with/participation in any current or
future events sponsored by Front Line Defenders and the Centre for Applied

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Human Rights, the University of York will not be affected by a potential

- Security of data. I will physically collect and keep track of data in such a manner
to ensure it is safe and secure, stored appropriately with the use of password
protection and other encryption methods and destroyed after 1 year.

- Accurate representation of the viewpoints of participants. I will respect the
importance of presenting the perspectives of the participants in the research
findings in a manner that is accurate, relevant and accessible to them. I will also
give them final approval over direct quotes attributed to them.

- Ethical responsibility is accepted for the responsible dissemination of the
research findings.

*Also sent copies of Project Information Sheet, Informed Consent Forms and the
Questionnaire with this document to Front Line Defenders and the Centre for Applied
Human Rights (CAHR).

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