Through their Eyes: A Photovoice and Interview Exploration of Integration Experiences of Congolese Refugee Women in Indianapolis

Abstract

The goal of this study was to engage with adult women refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to understand their perceptions and experiences with integration, resettlement, and health in Indianapolis. The focus of this paper is the findings related to integration. The study was conducted in partnership with a refugee resettlement agency who identified women from DRC as a population of interest since they are a relatively new refugee group to both the USA and Indiana. A community engaged approach was used to conduct a qualitative study utilizing both the Photovoice method and semi-structured interviews with 16 women. Triangulated analysis of interview transcripts, photos, and captions created from the Photovoice discussions revealed five major themes of language acquisition, lack of stable jobs, transportation, affordable housing, and social support. Our study concludes that emphasis on early self-sufficiency negatively affected this group of refugees’ language acquisition, which in turn adversely affected multiple other aspects of the integration process including access to well-paid jobs, affordable housing, and transportation. The authors argue that emphasis on social support, both within the Congolese refugee community and the local population, along with group learning can play a critical role in improving the integration experience of women refugees.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the University of Indianapolis Interdisciplinary Programs for providing the seed money for the project and Exodus Refugee Inc., our community research partner, for their support throughout the project.

Funding

This study was funded by the Indiana Minority Health Coalition.

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Correspondence to Jyotika Saksena.

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Saksena, J., McMorrow, S. Through their Eyes: A Photovoice and Interview Exploration of Integration Experiences of Congolese Refugee Women in Indianapolis. Int. Migration & Integration 21, 529–549 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12134-019-00672-1

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Keywords

  • Women
  • Refugees
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Photovoice
  • Integration