This first ever Honours Programme for EUR master students started in February. After following various masterclasses over the past three months, the students are now starting work on the second half of the programme; their own research projects. The master students presented their research proposals to Erasmus University College on Wednesday.
As is clear from the name, ‘inequalities’ are central to the Tackling Inequalities Honours Programme. For their final project, the students will be combining this core theme with three research programmes from Erasmus Initiatives. The eighteen participants have been split across three research groups; Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity, Smarter Choices for Better Health, and Vital Cities and Citizens.
Marie van der Gaag from Academic Affairs briefly welcomed those present to the session, which included the Honours Programme participants, the programme team and a jury comprising representatives from Risbo research institute and AA van Beek Fonds. Each group was given ten minutes to present their plans.
“Our research concerns female genital mutilation in Rotterdam”, explained Medicine student Wouter Dronkers from the Smarter Choices for Better Health group. “An estimated 29,000 Rotterdam women have been subject to female genital mutilation or are in the risk group; which is a shocking number.” Women from Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Kurdish region of Iraq are often among the victims.
His group is aware of this topic’s extreme sensitivity and does not intend to approach victims or potential victims directly. “We aim to support local initiatives that have been working in this area for some time”, added Charles Ménard, Management master student. “Local organisations have already worked hard to gain these women’s trust, but often do not have the resources to conduct extensive research. We could help them with this, for instance by providing information from an academic perspective.”
The students have contacted national and international organisations involved in female genital mutilation and will be visiting London during the research. “London also has large migrant populations that are in the risk group”, explained Dronkers. “We’d like to study how they address the problem in London.” As well as obtaining information about female genital mutilation, the team also aims to develop contacts between Rotterdam initiatives and London organisations ‘to exchange knowledge and experience’.
Isolation in Rotterdam South
Under the Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity theme, Business Administration student Alexander Piric’s group is focusing on mobility poverty in Rotterdam South. “You see this problem a lot in developing countries”, explained Piric. “The city starts expanding but the infrastructure can’t keep up. People from lower social classes end up becoming isolated in their neighbourhoods.”
Rotterdam South residents miss a lot of opportunities because of the lack of transport, stated Rosa van As, Public Administration student. “Our preliminary research showed that some young people in Rotterdam South have never even crossed the bridge, which is simply unbelievable”, stated Van As. “We believe they should be offered many more opportunities and that improved access to public transport will improve their quality of life.”
A lot of research has been conducted over the years into resident mobility in Rotterdam South. “Many initiatives have started to address this problem, but they always end after a short period”, explained Van As. The students will be investigating why mobility initiatives do not work in Rotterdam South and how they can resolve this problem.
Also problems in Rotterdam North
Whereas Van As and her group are focusing on Rotterdam South, the Vital Cities and Citizens group is looking at Rotterdam North. “We want to research how to organise the ideal, most inclusive event in a post-gentrification society”, explained participant Nizar El Manouzi, Medicine student. “Kralingen-West is the perfect neighbourhood for this.”
With ‘post-gentrification’ El Manouzi means a neighbourhood that has undergone a process of economic, cultural and social change. The result is a diverse neighbourhood with a mix of residents who hardly associate with each other.
The ultimate objective of this research group is to organise an event involving residents so that they can come up with solutions. “The inequality we’re researching is political inequality”, stated El Manouzi. “Not everyone is represented in politics, and we want this event to give them a voice. For instance, by talking together they can decide for themselves how the neighbourhood will look in twenty years.” El Manouzi is thinking of a kind of hackathon or brainstorming session to enable residents to discuss the problems together. “We’ll be involving residents, the municipality and initiators in this inclusive event.”
Both the programme team and the jury members were pleased with the participants’ performance. “The research proposals are of a high level”, stated Renate Buijze from AA van Beek Fonds, co-financier of the research projects. Dr Jiska Engelbert, Director of the Programme, agreed. “We expect the students’ research to have real impact.”