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“Some Will Say I'm Too Small” Education and the Politics of Inclusion for Young Women in Sierra Leone


Abstract: Drawing on ethnographic evidence from Sierra Leone, this presentation discusses the limits and possibilities of secondary schooling for young women in Africa. Furthermore, I examine gendered and racialized logics that inform the cultural production of the African schoolgirl within global education policy and practice. In recent years, Sierra Leone emerged as a regional and global “success story” of education and gender inclusion with the introduction of the 2018 Free Quality School Education (FQSE) Program, which placed emphasis on the “radical inclusion” of girls in schools and communities. I argue that the FQSE reform was not simply about girls’ empowerment, but more crucially, the means through which contested visions of gender equality and national development were negotiated following the country’s troubled history of civil war and the Ebola epidemic. I also highlight agentive practices young women in Sierra Leone adopt to navigate obstacles to their inclusion in school and society. 

Biography: Dr. Kallon Kelly is a UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of African American Studies and the Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. Her research interests focus on the global context of schooling, youth, race, gender, and development. She holds a Ph.D. in Education, Culture, and Society, an MS.Ed. in International Educational Development, and a certificate in Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Kallon Kelly was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and raised in Pakistan, Kenya, Uganda, and Bangladesh before immigrating to the United States.

UCLA African Studies Center310-825-3683

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, Department of Anthropology

29 Feb 24

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