How our graduate students are contributing to complex societal issues – International Women’s Day

Charlotte Dahin

PhD – Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies

Gender-Based Violence

Tell me about your journey

Before starting the doctoral program at the University of Ottawa, I completed a bachelor's degree in law (University of Namur) and a master's degree in law (Catholic University of Louvain) in Belgium. I was also part of a student association whose aim was to organize human rights awareness campaigns on the university campus. After that, I did a master’s in Public International Law in the UK. It was during this mastery that my interest in the experiences of women, specifically asylum seekers, who experienced of gender-based violence grew.

What motivated or inspired you to do research on sexual violence against women?

I have always had a strong interest in issues related to equality between women and men. As part of my master's degree in Belgium, I wrote my thesis on women's access to positions of responsibility in business and finance. I also undertook training in international humanitarian law in which the issue of sexual violence against women in armed conflicts, including rape as a weapon of war, was discussed and raised a particular interest in me. At the time, I was also a volunteer in an open center for asylum seekers.

It was within the framework of the master's degree in International Law that I realized in the United Kingdom that I was sensitized to the experiences of asylum seekers who experienced experiences of gender-based violence and the difficulties that, They meet at several levels of the refugee status determination process. Thanks to volunteer work and my training, I already had some knowledge of refugee law and violence against women, but it was through further research that I really realized the inequalities and difficulties that women ' asylum seekers may be confronted with to obtain refugee status.

Why is your research important in today’s society?

Newly arrived refugees are often in difficult situations and are particularly vulnerable. This is specifically the case for asylum-seekers who have experienced gender-based violence. I think that these women are too often invisible and that it is important to continue research to reflect more on the process of granting refugee status, a process that is ill-suited to women who invoke gender-based violence as a reason for persecution to obtain refugee status. It is important to give a voice to these women, not only to understand what they are going through and to hear their demands on the legal framework and the reception programs that exist, but also to go beyond their representation as victims but as women.

My research project would allow refugee claimants, on the one hand, to make their experiences visible and, on the other hand, to comment on the rules that apply, for assistance and the use of services to successfully cross the refugee process. I hope that my research will give them the opportunity to speak out in relation to the process they have gone through and to highlight their ability to be agents of change.

What would you like to see or accomplish in the future?

I would like my project to bring about real change for asylum seekers who have experienced sexual violence. I do not think that they have the opportunity to express their views on what they are experiencing in the refugee process, although they are the ones involved in the process.

Personally, I would like to continue to research refugee rights and violence against women. I hope that this project will come to fruition. Later, I would like to work with an international organization that works for equality between women and men

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