Somali women in London : education and gender relations
This thesis explores the impact of education levels on the social changes experienced by Somali women migrants to Britain, in particular attitudes towards changes in gender relations. The original hypothesis was that the higher the level of education the greater the degree of empowerment, other research and policy having linked education to women's autonomy and emancipation. Somali women in general have low levels of education and most did not speak English upon arrival in Britain. A sample of 50 Somali women aged from 16 to over 50 with a variety of education levels ranging from no formal education to higher education levels was selected and studied using a variety of qualitative methods. These included participant observation within the community by attending social events; group interviews; and indepth interviews conducted in Somali and English using a semi-structured questionnaire. During the study the following areas were explored: gender equality, education, employment, marriage, divorce, health, housing, immigration, social security, religion, culture, and the family. Somalis are Muslims and their lifestyle is influenced by Islam especially in the areas of gender relations, marriage and divorce. The study found that contrary to the original hypothesis, Somali women with higher education levels had a mo re conservative approach to gender equality and women's empowerment than less educated women. All the women believed education could provide a route to skilled employment and empowerment. The educated women gave more credence to the Somali community's perceptions of their behaviour and followed religious precepts on gender relations rather than the pursuit of their own empowerment and autonomy. Women with less education felt able to file for divorce if their husbands were not living up to their part of the marriage contract. The key finding was that economic independencer ather than level of educationw as the main key to women's empowerment.