Becoming women 'scientists’: negotiating gendered constructions of science at university in Rwanda

PhD Thesis

Tukahabwa, D. 2018. Becoming women 'scientists’: negotiating gendered constructions of science at university in Rwanda. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Education
AuthorsTukahabwa, D.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDegree of Doctor of Philosophy

This study focuses on the experiences of young women pursuing careers in science disciplines at the University of Rwanda. It explores the gendered constructions of science and how young women negotiate these constructions to study science subjects at university. Traditionally, sciences are male-dominated subjects and continue to be an area where women are a minority. This thesis argues that the underrepresentation of women in science disciplines within higher education from the Rwandan context is largely due to the social roles expected of women as mothers and caretakers, which has led to them being less likely to take a science degree. Although studies on the underrepresentation of women in science have proliferated, there is still inadequate research on women’s experiences of the lives they encounter while studying science subjects at university. Moreover, an investigation of these experiences leads to an understanding of the gendered construction of these subjects from within the Rwandan context. By employing a qualitative research methodology underlined with a feminist and case study approach, the study explores the experiences of women pursuing careers in science subjects. The researcher shares the experiences of these young women using research tools including interviews, reflective diaries and analysis of documents. As this study demonstrates, an individual’s family background, domestic roles, community expectations and schooling experiences at primary school, secondary school and university, among other factors, have a significant influence on young women’s decisions to study science disciplines at university. Moreover, instead of the young women continuing to see themselves as people who are unfit to study the subjects that tend to be constructed in masculine terms, the young women included in this research have pursued careers in science and subverted these constructions. This thesis also argues that the policy adopted by the post- genocide government to encourage the recruitment of women in positions of power has played a role in motivating young women to reconceptualise themselves and engage with roles for which they would previously have been considered incapable of. This study may act as a springboard for similar studies elsewhere in terms of investigating conditions under which women study traditionally male-dominated subjects. Furthermore, this study can offer insights on how the Government of Rwanda could pursue issues of affirmative action, to enable more young women to enroll on science degrees at tertiary education level.

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Deposited23 Jan 2020
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