This is a post from The Human Security Angle: the newsletter of the Master’s Programme in Human Security at Aarhus University.
Samwel, why did you decide to study human security at Aarhus University?
My interest in Human Security is influenced by my previous job as Program Coordinator of a local environment media organisation called Environment Media Network (EMNet) back in Tanzania between 2009 and 2012. During my time at EMNet I was introduced to the realities of climate change in communities living in villages around Tanzania. I had an opportunity to travel around the country to observe but also to gather local stories that were used to write a Tanzania climate change strategy. Traveling in Masai land and seeing how droughts have shrunken the Masai cattle economy and caused massive rural-urban migration was an eye-opening experience for me.
Then I had an opportunity to move to Egypt during the winter of 2012 to work with Action Aid. This was the time after the first Arab spring revolution that led to the removal of President Mubarak and the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi. I witnessed the uprising of the second revolution, including the demonstrations of young people who were dissatisfied with the political elite and the state repression and brutality against the people, mostly young graduees with no jobs. My work for EMNet and Action aid nourished my interest in human security and impacted by decision to join the Master’s programme in Human Security at Aarhus University.
Where did you do your work placement, and what did you learn?
I had a two-tier field work placement; I started with an internship at UN Women Tanzania, and later I did field research in Zanzibar while volunteering with Barefoot College Zanzibar. At UN Women, I was exposed to the UN system, how it works and how to work in such a big organisation. During my internship, I coordinated UN Women partners on different trainings, forums, and meetings; assisted on the monitoring and assessment of partner organisation project activities; reviewed the Women Economic Empowerment Department budget and the UN Women Tanzania strategy. I also attended conferences and seminars that enriched my work experience and provided me with a platform for networking.
Barefoot College Zanzibar trains women on solar engineering, supports rural electrification and empowers women through training on different income-generating activities. Women empowerment and solar engineering were central themes of my master dissertation “Let there be Light: Women´s Participation in Solar Light Technology and It’s Agency to Women Empowerment and Social Change in Rural Zanzibar.” Volunteering at Barefoot opened doors for me to access my informants. I participated in their daily activities, which aided trust and was crucial for obtaining data.
What are you doing at the moment?
Currently I am doing a PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo, Norway. My research project is part of a larger project called AnthroTox. This project brings together social anthropologists, historians and STS-scholars, environmental toxicologists and chemists, to understand how environmental, social and political-economic processes shape flows and impacts of anthropogenic toxicants across societies and ecosystems. The aim is to contribute to public debate, policy processes and remedial action. My project focusses on exploring the repairing, reusing, recycling and scavenging of electronic devices in Tanzania.
What have you taken with you from your human security studies?
My PhD is based on the same kind of interdisciplinary analysis as I learned at Human Security. Studying Human security laid the foundation for the theoretical and empirical tools that I use in the venture of my current exploration of the electronic waste problem.