Author: Van Der Putten, Sonja
This study aimed to explore the educational and career goals of young adult women from refugee backgrounds in Canada and the barriers they faced in pursuing these goals. Education is a universal human right centrally linked to poverty reduction, stable economic growth, and better overall lives for children, families, and communities. Yet, many young adult women, aged 19-30 years old from refugee backgrounds have missed out on formative years of education because of war and displacement. Improved higher educational access for these women can help them achieve higher-paying employment, contribute meaningfully to their communities, and help support their families. This study aimed to explore how, upon settlement in Canada, these young adult women might continue to be challenged with various discriminatory practices and policies that challenge their ability to pursue higher education. This study was conducted using qualitative methods rooted in constructivist principles. Through an inductive process, data were collected through 18 interviews and four focus groups with 17 participants, which were then thematically analyzed. Results from this study found that the barriers that participants faced in pursuing higher education were influenced by the method of migration used to arrive in Canada, government or private sponsorship, and therefore the resources they had available to them. Once in Canada, developing academic English language skills; not having previous academic credentials recognized; having limited support networks; and finding affordable housing and livable wage employment further complicated the pursuit of higher educational goals. Gendered responsibilities also detracted from the time and resources they had to pursue higher education. To best support young adult women from refugee backgrounds pursuing higher education in Canada, an individualized and integrated approach must be considered. Individual circumstances must be evaluated, and pathways must be available to best meet the individuals' unique needs. An integrated approach, which includes the voices of the young adult women from refugee backgrounds, as well as relevant stakeholders, including educational institutions, must also be included to provide the support needed for successful settlement in Canada.
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Thesis advisor: Cassidy, Wanda
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