Dr Lilian Owoko
Introducing Dr Lilian Owoko
The Re-imagining Reproduction project has five postdoctoral research fellows working in various African countries. Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing these incredible researchers to our community. We asked each of our fellows nine questions to get to know them better.
Please tell us who you are, what your area of interest/expertise is, and where in the world you work.
My name is Lilian Adhiambo Owoko from Kenya. I work as a lecturer in the department of Sociology and Anthropology at Maseno University. I am an Anthropologist with I have a background in Sociology. My research areas include adolescent sexuality, HIV/AIDS care and management, social protection for older persons, and gender and development.
What/who inspired your current research field?
My current research field is adolescent sexuality. My family’s experiences of orphans left behind in our care after the death of siblings inspire me. My niece had been perinatally infected and was adherent to ART until she turned 12 years old. Then she became rebellious, refused medication and outrightly engaged in risky sexual behaviours. I often wonder what happened to her, and it has inspired me to explore the life worlds of adolescents, especially their sexuality.
Who are your research/practitioner partners?
So far, my doctoral supervisors and socio-economists who work for Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Kibos.
What projects have you been working on recently?
Component 2 of the Kenya Climate Smart Agricultural Project (KCSAP), funded by the World Bank, is a multi-disciplinary team from Maseno University and KALRO. The project: Gender Mainstreaming and Social Inclusion in Climate Smart Agricultural (CSA) Technology, Innovation and Management Practices (TIMPs) in selected value chains. The project sites include Siaya, Kisumu, Busia, Kericho, Tana River and Kajiado Counties. The project value chains include tomatoes, cassava, apiculture, finger millet and sorghum.
What about your work challenges you, and which parts make you smile?
What makes me smile is the ease with which anthropological studies unfold during fieldwork. And the opportunities it gives to explore all facets of life.
The challenge is time-related. There is a lot of work both in and outside the lecture halls. Our teaching and supervision load increased over the years, leaving less time for research.
What three positive things have you achieved in the last year?
- The graduate school cleared my first postgraduate student to proceed with fieldwork for her Master’s degree program in Social Development and Management.
- I examined my first Master’s thesis in Anthropology at the graduate school.
- I became part of a multi-disciplinary research team working on Component 2 of the KCSAP project.
What advice can you give to people aspiring to work in your field?
One needs to be self-driven/motivated because academic work is hard work.
What impact would you like your work to have?
To change lives and to give a voice to segments of society that form my research field and respondents.
If you had the opportunity to change anything in your field: what would it be, how would you change it, and why?
I would change how supervisors handle their postgraduate students at my university by instituting specific guidelines on supervisor-student relationships accompanied by follow-up mechanisms. My experience with supervision and what I witness with other postgraduate students make postgraduate studies difficult. Students spend many years in the system, and most of them give up and discontinue altogether from accomplishing their degree program. In effecting change, I would begin with the admission process to ensure the required qualifications are met.