Aspirations have been associated with educational interventions geared towards raising the level of educational attainment among communities with low socioeconomic status (SES). It has taken root in most Western countries in the past few decades as a means of bridging the economic inequality gap in these societies. Using Appadurai’s Capacity to Aspire theory, I discuss how South Sudanese girls and their parents, in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, express their and their daughters’ educational and the future possibilities for the future such as good life, getting rich and helping others. Challenges to access, retention and graduation from schools was explored. The notion of empowerment through education was also examined specifically about how it is understood by the teachers, NGOs staff and parents. I conducted focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews, document reviews, and observations as data collection methods among 50 participants. Adopting intersection-al lens to analyze their views, it became apparent that girls in the settlement have high aspirations. Gender roles, relations and ideologies, and refugee environment play a major role in influencing these girls’ aspirations. Female and male parents have different ideas about which children to take and keep at school. This gives us a sense of how aspirations are gendered. Despite a host of literature pointing the non-linearity of education leading to empowerment most of the teachers, NGOs staff, District Education Officer and a few parents still highly believe that girls’ empowerment can be achieved through formal education. The implication is that the girls aspire for things that are somewhat different from what the resource holders/providers want to give them, hence rendering educational and empowerment initiatives ineffective when girls’ views are not considered. Although sensationalized in Europe, United States and Australia, it should be noted that aspirations are context specific. South Sudanese refugee girls find themselves in a constrained environment which influences what they aspire to be or have in the future. Whether they will achieve those aspirations is again something entirely different.

aspirations, girls, education, empowerment, gendered displacement, South Sudan, Uganda
Grabska, Katarzyna (Kasia) Elzbieta
Governance and Development Policy (GDP)
International Institute of Social Studies

Muorwel, James Kunhiak Muorwal. (2019, December 20). Gendered aspirations: The role of education in amplifying the constrained voices of South Sudanese refugee girls in Kiryandongo settlement in Uganda. Governance and Development Policy (GDP). Retrieved from