So I’m checking out potential thesis topics at the moment. Forget about how much information is available on each at the moment (because there’s pretty much none) – what would YOU choose?
• Barlake (bride price) – the practice of giving money and items (buffalo!) to a bride’s family (from the groom’s family) on marriage – this is often mentioned but no comprehensive studies seem to have been done
• Women in the public service (probably my backup in case all the others, which will require time in the districts, aren’t possible – but I am very interested as the Timorese public service is only 20% women)
• Men’s attitudes towards women (would be v.useful as women are often consulted in gender issues, and men much less so – although men’s input and collaboration is vital if we want things to move forward, I think – also I think cultural attitudes need to be understood for negative ones to be changed)
• Polygamy – same as barlake, it’s a practice which is taboo, it’s not really talked about openly (remember Timor is 90% Catholic!) but the practice has a huge effect on women and it’s entwined with many other aspects of society
• Matrilineal communities – where property is passed down through the maternal line - it seems there are between 2 and 4 matrilineal communities in Timor, but, same as barlake and polygamy, it seems very little concrete study has been conducted.
• Sex workers – perhaps focusing on men’s violence against sex workers.
- sighs and looks dreamy* There are SO many awesome topics to be researched in Timor-Leste, I could just spend the rest of my life on this stuff, I swear.*
I *could* go straight for the easy topic (women in the public service). The thing is, though, I really want to do a topic that is a bit difficult. Difficult in terms of being a bit taboo and not easily quantified. Something that really affects women. I was inspired two years ago by my friend Maire, who I met when I started this Masters. She wrote an amazing sub-thesis on female genital cutting in Africa, which just blew the lid off a whole lot of common misconceptions about the practice and what communities and NGOs are doing regarding it. She took a taboo topic and found the women’s voices and women’s agency in it.
I don’t think I can hope to do anything as revolutionary as Maire has done (is doing – she’s now doing a PhD on that topic). However, I do think the topics above, because they haven’t been studied much at all, will have something worthwhile saying.
I don’t want to say the same old things about girls in education, women’s voices in elections, or even men’s violence against women. To me, these are issues where the problems are fairly clear and programs and (possible) solutions should be implemented as of right now. There are plenty of international organizations who are happy to put time, money and people into researching those things. I want to try something different if I can.
- I’m thinking I might try to do one of these topics as an article, too. We’ll see how much time I get for research.