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Master thesis on refugee empowerment with Eos Cares as 'gate keeper'

Austrian Jessica Diez graduated from the international Master program in Public Health at Lund University. She wrote her Master Thesis partly in collaboration with Eos Cares and focused on the concept of empowerment.

At the beginning of her studies in Lund, Jessica heard about Eos Cares’ language café and decided to try it out to meet new people. Throughout her studies she occasionally visited activities organized by Eos Cares, such as the “Spring Roll Event” and the Winter Party. After having conducted a small field study in qualitative research methodology, using the Eos Cares staff as ‘gatekeepers’ to get in touch with interviewees who were participants of the organization’s activities, she decided to connect this experience and sphere to her master thesis.

In her thesis, Jessica aimed to explore the meaning and components of empowerment among individuals with refugee background in Lund and Malmö. Jessica states that migrants, particularly people with a refugee background, experience increased susceptibility to poor health in comparison to the local population. During her public health studies, the students often encountered the idea of empowerment as a means to sustainably improve health and decrease health disparities. She found that in theory it seemed clear what the concept means - the process of increasing control over one’s life – but she wanted to dig deeper into how it actually manifests itself in practice.

To make the concept more tangible, she approached it with the concept of agency, which is the ability to make decisions on purpose. She talked to people with a refugee background and aimed to understand what motivations people have when arriving and starting their new lives in Sweden, and what challenges and opportunities they may encounter when trying to achieve their goals.

Something that became noticeably clear to Jessica when working on the results of her thesis is that each individual is driven by his/her own purpose and motivation. When people arrive in a new country, they want to establish and lead a life that they value. Some may want to study; some pursue a job in a specific field and most want to make friends. Whether someone can pursue and achieve these goals depends on many factors, for instance their social network, their surrounding environment, and their resources.

Jessica says that NGOs take an important role in supporting individuals to pursue their goals. Local-level initiatives are easily accessible for people, embedded within the community and may bridge institutional gaps. Getting involved as a participant or volunteer in an organization, such as Eos Cares, is a great way to meet people within the local community, establish a social network, and learn the Swedish language in a casual manner - all of which are important to settle in and become independent – empowered - in the new country.

Currently Jessica is living in Austria, working in a research project on labor market integration of refugee women at the International Centre for Migration Policy Development.

Matilda Ottelid,

External Relations Manager, Eos Cares

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