Stories told by refugee youth: alternatives to dominant narratives

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International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education


Stories of children moving in and out of refugee camps are not uncommon yet are often overshadowed by the dominant narratives of oppression, political failure, and war—the stories told of rather than told by refugees. Dominant narratives on refugees largely shape perceptions about children and youth in displacement as vulnerable, voiceless, and passive. Instead, stories told by these populations highlight their identities as capable and determined. Employing a narrative approach to inquiry in relation to agency, this study seeks to understand how lived experiences of female refugee youth are shared through storytelling. Written narratives of 55 adolescent girls in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya revealed not only the complex and complicated circumstances of their educational journey but also their agency. This paper concludes by emphasizing the importance of storytelling, which enables us to better understand the needs of the displaced populations, but also their capabilities, aspirations and agency.