Mary Thamari Odhiambo
University of Birmingham, UK, PhD in Africa Studies and Anthropology, Gender, Culture and Development
The fourteenth recipient of the Senesh Graduate Fellowship for 2014-2015 is Mary Odhiambo from Nairobi, Kenya. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Maseno University, Kenya, 1997-2001, and a Master of Arts Degree from Africa International University in Kenya. Her impressive employment history includes such projects as the Global Bag Project, County Girls Caucus where she is a founding director of a leadership and life skills development project for teenage girls in rural Kenya, and Africa by Design where she was able to organize a partnership between North American and Kenyan women for volunteer opportunities.
Originally from Kenya, Mary’s studies focus on gender issues in Kenyan marriage customs and their effects on community development in regard to women’s quest for socioeconomic growth. Through applied ethnographic research methods, she plans to study widow-inheritance and polygamy customs among the Luo of western Kenya. She will also research how these customs influence women’s fight against poverty. Her research will focus on aspects of culture and social dynamics that render women as more vulnerable members of households, especially in a context such as western Kenya, which has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country. While recognizing that community development requires efforts of both women and men, her research will explore links between gender relations in marriage contexts, as well as wider community peace-building efforts, and how it all influences overall community development.
After completion of her doctoral studies, Mary plans to widen her involvement in community development through local governance as well as lecture at a university in Kenya where she plans to engage students on matters of development, including peace-building as a component of community development, and gender in the context of local customs.