Dr Roselyn Kanyemba
Introducing Dr Roselyn Kanyemba
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 Roselyn Kanyemba. I’m a Social Anthropologist with a PhD in Anthropology from the University of KwaZulu Natal, an MSc in Development Studies from the National University of Science and Technology, and a BSc (Hons) in Sociology and Social Anthropology from the University of Zimbabwe. My research interests include equal and quality education for females, the decolonization of higher education spaces, sexual harassment, adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights, gender relations, adolescent HIV/AIDS and stigma, medication adherence and the study of masculinities.
What/who inspired your current research field?
I studied anthropology in my undergraduate studies, but the aspect of feminism has been absent from my formative politicisation. Access to the language and politics of feminism was beyond my grasp. I came to feminism relatively late in my life and academic career. Early in my PhD career, I attended a conference organised by the African Gender Institute. The event was committed to connecting with African women who identify as feminist thinkers and activists across disciplinary, institutional, and geographic borders. That was when my interest in feminist anthropology was strengthened. My interest in feminist anthropology stemmed from my concern with the larger problem of women’s struggle to make something of their lives. As such, in my PhD work, l engaged with a decolonial feminist ethnography which is an empowering, ethically engaged methodology that can address the complexities of the lived world and the complications of power in research to bring forward different worldviews, knowledge and lived experiences. Engaging with a decolonial feminist ethnography enabled me to engage with the politics of power and positionality in the research process.
What projects have you been working on recently?
I have been working on research involving adolescent boys and young men and the sexual behaviours that make them vulnerable to acquiring HIV/AIDS. The research aimed at identifying interventions that have targeted this population in Sub-Saharan Africa for the past 21 years and their effectiveness in reducing sexual risk behaviour in that population.
What about your work challenges you, and which parts make you smile?
Fieldwork is sometimes challenging as respondents occasionally feel that researchers only value them as bodies to be studied, exoticized, and theorized about, without any substantive positive change to their life circumstances. As a result, people may refuse to answer questions if they fear the response could be used against them and their people. In other cases, they may lie to appear cooperative but prevent anthropologists from discovering the truth.
What makes you smile: I get satisfaction from conducting ethical research that does not harm the safety, dignity, or privacy of the people with whom we work and conduct research on.
What three positive things have you achieved in the last year?
- I have managed to have a scoping review published. It was my first time doing a scoping review, and it was very taxing. Its acceptance and publication by a high-end journal such as AIDS and Behavior was rewarding. The most satisfying thing about publishing this review was the collaboration and teamwork from conceptualizing to publishing. I worked with accredited scholars who are giants in their respective fields. I learnt a lot through this collaboration.
- I am a proud mother of 2 boys. Through hard work and dedication, I manag to balance pregnancy, work, and motherhood in the past year. At times it was tiring, but I scheduled pretty much everything I had to do in my calendar. I needed to know my list of tasks, when each was due, and how long they would take. This way, I never missed a deadline, assignment or any other responsibility.
- I have grown as a scholar, which is evident through invites to review journals.
What advice can you give to people aspiring to work in your field?
Aspiring anthropologists should be aware that anthropology is a demanding field that is writing intensive. My strongest recommendation is for them to develop robust skills in written communication and analysis. Also, as in any professional academic pursuit, critical thinking and argumentative skills are essential to research. If they are sure of their independent research ability and strong preparation for their area of interest then everything will fall into place.
What impact would you like your work to have?
The goal is to imagine a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination and a diverse equitable and inclusive world where difference is valued and celebrated. Through research, to create opportunities for women that previously did not exist. This kind of representation contributes to critical reviewing, amending, augmenting or formulating of legislation, policies, frameworks, projects and programmes as a vehicle for political change. From this organised position, feminists can hold the government accountable for support policies such as childcare, work-life balance and gender roles.
If you had the opportunity to change anything in your field: what would it be, how would you change it, and why?
- I would address the gender disparity in the academic leadership of universities. Academia is still a male-dominated field. While many women juggle multiple responsibilities, men commonly have a clear run at their career goals. Without awareness of and action on the systemic barriers in higher education, no change will occur to support female leaders of the future.
- I would advocate for recognition of women’s multiple roles as both employees and mothers. Workplaces need to recognize women’s carer responsibilities resulting in lower work output. There is, therefore, a need to acknowledge this in work evaluations and support working mothers. There is a lack of structured mentoring opportunities to discuss strategies to overcome the nuanced barriers of the male-dominated environment. Female academics would benefit from sharing strategies for managing challenging situations, designing decision-making processes, applying leadership frameworks, showing resilience and planning for career advancement and leadership growth.
- Instead of research findings being good for publishing only, l would also want to see our recommendations resulting in our field research being actioned on and adopted to improve people’s lives. This can be done through recommendations to governments and relevant stakeholders.