EDGES member Gaylean Davies is a new UBC Public Scholar. Gaylean’s Public Scholars Initiative (PSI) award will support the arts-based portion of her “Women, Water, and Empowerment” PhD project in Ghana. PSI funding will allow Gaylean to engage women through employing a combination of visual methods (photovoice and participatory mapping) and focus group discussions (FGDs) as a means of understanding their experiences of small water enterprise (SWE) projects designed to empower them. This will enable Gaylean to include those often excluded from knowledge production and meaningful participation in development interventions; to de-centre herself and redress, somewhat, the power imbalance between researcher and participant; to cross linguistic and educational levels between researcher and participant, and between participants; and to investigate empowerment not only as a subject of study, but also through the use of methods noted in the literature as empowering. Visual methods are notably important for explicating areas of alignment and divergence between participants in their understandings of natural spaces; for making visible social relations and narratives often invisible in considerations of natural resource access and use; and as political tools in discussions with NGOs and policymakers in representing visually the experiences of women. The photos and maps produced will provide a useful point of departure not only for FGDs, but also to allow for deepened understandings of one’s own and other points of view. These methods are guided by a similar ethos and set of questions, including, ‘whose knowledge counts and who counts it?’
Gaylean’s work includes working with water organizations in Ghana and building on relationships already present from a previous long-term research project conducted by Prof. Leila Harris.