The University of Texas at Austin
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Ivi Brown

Ivi Brown
Major: 
Social Work
BDP Certificate: 
Conflict Resolution & Peace Studies
Graduation: 
Fall 2013

Ivi took an ethnographic approach to study the social situation of Kayayei, a group of displaced, mistreated tribal women in Ghana for her Conflict Resolution & Peace Studies BDP certificate. To this end, she worked with NGOs while in Ghana and interviewed political officials. She wrote a paper outlining her interviews and the situation of the Kayayei.

“This life-changing experience has allowed me to develop a more in-depth understanding about the complexities that lie within issues such as the Kayayei conflict and the various paradigms involved.”

Describe your research project and your interest in the subject area.
My Connecting Experience was aimed at learning about the Kayayei girls, a troubled population and source of economical, political, and societal conflict. Through face-to-face interaction with various figures in Accra and Kumasi, Ghana, and by observing their lives in the marketplaces, it became apparent that the Kayayei are a neglected and stigmatized population and considered almost valueless despite the vendors’ high demand for their work as porters. The vast majority of these young girls are living in unsafe conditions where they sleep on the streets and suffer from sickness, as well as minor and horrific acts of dehumanization. Unfortunately, returning home to their tribes does not appear to be an option due to likely abuse. From the moment I learned about this tragic issue, I sought answers to see what was being done about this and what could be done in the future.

What type of information were you able to gather in Ghana?
When I arrived in Ghana, I arranged to speak with individuals from two local NGO groups. I learned the state of these new NGOs, the lack of governmental support, and personally witnessed and experienced the social culture as well. Individuals cared about the issue but were at a loss on what to do. Most of all, I was able to validate upsetting claims about the Kayayei. Lastly, I was able to see that much is still in the formative stages in regards to getting aid to the population.

How did this experience connect to your BDP?
As a student in the Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies program, this experience was a real life immersion into an issue related to social, economical, and political conflict. With the help of dynamic local individuals, we worked together to consider the many perspectives within this issue and determine the necessary steps that might help resolve this problem. Currently, there is no regulation on pay, and governmental welfare institutions simply don’t exist. I have seen how the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Ghana has signed and ratified, has been clearly violated due to disregard of the Kayayei and other issues.

In what ways has this Connecting Experience shaped your plans for the future?
This life-changing experience has allowed me to develop a more in-depth understanding about the complexities that lie within issues such as the Kayayei conflict and the various paradigms involved. My personal growth has reached new heights due to this intense cultural immersion, and because of this, I am more devoted to my major in social work and am certain that mediation will become a powerful tool within my expertise. Also, I still continue to work with new friends that I have made in Ghana in hopes that the Kayayei can be helped. Together, we strive to reach out to others for help and work to do whatever is possible within our capacity.