Over the past two decades, the United States of America, Australia, Canada,
Britain and other Western European nations have witnessed a high influx of African
Refugees from war torn countries in Africa. Southern Sudanese left their country to
escape the civil war between Southern Sudanese and the Northern dominated
government. The civil war began intermittently in 1955 and continuously in 1983. The
civil war ended in 2003 and has resulted in the death of 2 million and the displacement of
four million Southern Sudanese (UNHCR, 2001).
The lives of the Southern Sudanese refugees have not been easy after
resettlement, especially the lives of women. Many Southern Sudanese women have
experienced violence and rape during the civil war in Sudan and in refugee camps and
have lived in fear of such violence (Tankink & Richters, 2007). The resettlement of
Southern Sudanese women refugees into a society that is geographically and culturally
different has been challenging.
The dissertation indicated that adjustment to a new culture is a difficult process
for many women refugees. (Sullivan & Deacon, 2009), (Martin, 2004). Barriers that
hinder the adjustment process include racial and cultural discrimination against women
refugees in the host society. Women refugees are likely to face racism and sexism in
seeking employment or vocational training in their host country. There also personal
barriers that hinder the adjustment process for refugee women. These barriers include
trauma, lack of language skills and vocational skills, and cultural differences (Martin,
In general, there is a little literature that focuses on the African refugee
resettlement experience in the US (Boas, 2007), (khawaja, et al, 2008) and there are less
literature on Southern Sudanese women refugees and their overall adjustment in their
new environments. This study expands the understanding of the Southern Sudanese
women refugees’ experiences and the barriers that prevent them from achieving their
The significance of the study lies in its search for a deeper understanding of the
process through which Southern Sudanese women refugees attempt to balance their life
demands as they are integrating to American norms and values. This area of knowledge,
based on the experiences of Southern Sudanese women as they settled in Minnesota
brings increasing awareness of the particular needs of Southern Sudanese refugee
women. This will also assist service providers, educators, and policy makers in
developing best practices when working with Southern Sudanese women refugees
This is a qualitative study research used narrative analysis. For this qualitative
research, a purposive sample of 7 Southern Sudanese refugee women was selected to
participate in the study. Two methods of recruitment were used; first through nominative
sample and second through the resettlement agencies and adult education centers in
Minnesota. Strict measures to ensure that participants were protected from any undue
harm or coercion as a result of interviews.
The sample selection criteria were as follows: Be a Southern Sudanese women
refugee 21years or older; has entered the United States with refugee status; is able to
communicate in English or Arabic; has been living in the US for longer than one year,
who is coming back to school or in school to get an education or some sort of credentials
related to language skills or career preparation.
The findings of this study supported and corresponded with the literature. The
interviews of the seven Southern Sudanese women refugees revealed a range of reactions
and experiences in navigating and resettling in their new home, Minnesota. The variation
of the women’s ages and backgrounds, and the circumstances of their experiences,
produced a variety of themes. The most prevalent themes identified were the cultural
conflict and its impact on resettlement; the challenges the women experienced in adapting
to their new homes; the impossibility of returning back home; the traumatic experiences
pre and post resettlement; and coping and sources of resilience.
The narrative methodology allowed the women refugees the voice to provide a
context specific knowledge beyond the generalized explanation of the refugees
experiences in the literature thus adding a rich picture of this marginalized group and
their perspectives and unique experiences to the literature.
This qualitative research provided some understanding and explanation about the
experience of some Southern Sudanese women refugees but it cannot be generalized to
all Southern Sudanese women refugee populations, or any other ethnic refugee group.
University of Minnesota PhD dissertation. Sept. 2015. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Rosemarie Park. 1 computer file (PDF): x, 244 pages.
The Resettlement Experiences of Southern Sudanese Women Refugees in Minnesota.
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.
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