CAS 2020 Graduate Student Grantees

December 1, 2020

Each year, the Harvard Center for African Studies offers summer and January-term research travel grants for graduate students. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, CAS opted to continue to support Harvard graduate students through semester-based remote research grants in lieu of summer and January term travel grants. Currently enrolled Harvard graduate students were eligible to apply for fall semester funding to support their independent remote research projects, while continuing their studies remotely here in the USA or back in their home countries. The Center is delighted to support twelve graduate students from various Harvard graduate schools as they pursue their research projects in this new remote environment this semester.

Oluwatosin Alliyu (Graduate School of Design)
oluwatosin alliyu profile picture
Project Title: Building Climate-resilience and Self-sufficiency through Urban Farming in Nigeria
Climate change and COVID-19 have drastically widened the food demand-supply gap in Nigeria. Given these challenges, my project aims to reduce this gap by supplementing soil-based rural farming with soil-less urban farming. More specifically, I am exploring ways of building modular urban farms that use innovative farming techniques (i.e., hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics etc.) and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to produce high yielding crops.
Biography: Oluwatosin Alliyu is a second-year student in the Master in Design Engineering (MDE) program under the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Her passion lies in the intersection of design, technology, and social impact where she aims to explore ways to enhance the daily lived experiences of people in city spaces, especially as it pertains to transforming the built environment and improving urban governance. She is particularly interested in reimagining and realizing the future urban fabric of African cities in such a way that seamlessly merges the physical and cyber space, making both the environment and people within the environment resilient towards the increasingly complex systems that exist in society.


Myriam  Amri (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences)
Myriam Amri Profile
Project Title: Deviant Currencies: Money and Its Contentious Forms Along a North African Border, 1930s-Present
My dissertation entitled Deviant Currencies: Money and Its Contentious Forms Along a North African Border, 1930s-Present is a historical anthropology project on money between Tunisia and Algeria. I explore the relationship between official money forms (colonial and then national currencies) and what I call deviant currencies. “Deviant currencies” is an umbrella term that brings together counterfeited, trafficked, and fake currencies.
Biography: Myriam Amri is a PhD candidate in the joint degree in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies. Her research is a historical anthropology of money in Algeria and Tunisia, focusing on notions of materiality, value, and power. She is also currently working on the first documentary film on space and memory in a neighborhood of Tunis. She received a dual- bachelor’s degree from Sciences Po in Paris and Columbia University, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and is the co-founder of “Asameena," an Arab literary collective.



Lilia Bliznashka (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences)
Lilia Profile Picture
Project Title: Effect of COVID-19 on routine child health services utilization and delivery in rural Mozambique
The objective of this study is to examine the effects of COVID-19 on routine early child health services utilization and delivery at primary health facilities in rural Mozambique. The proposed study builds on an ongoing evaluation of a parenting intervention implemented through existing government health services in Nampula Province, Mozambique.
Biography: Lily Bliznashka is a PhD candidate in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She is majoring in Population and Family Health, with minors in Nutrition and Applied Quantitative Methods. Lily’s research interests involve the evaluation of multi-input health, nutrition, and responsive care interventions, with an understanding of their effectiveness and the pathways through which they work to promote maternal and child health and nutrition in low-resource settings. Before beginning her PhD, Lily worked at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC, where she focused on evaluating the impact of multisectoral agriculture-nutrition and health-nutrition programs on maternal and child health and nutrition. Originally from Bulgaria, Lily received her Bachelor's from Georgetown University and her Master's from The Fletcher School at Tufts University.



Emma Clarke-Deelder (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences)
Emma Clarke Photo
Project Title: The Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Health System Performance and Population Health in Uganda
This study will use mobile surveys, administrative data, and baseline data from a recent trial to (1) measure changes over time in population health during the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) measure changes over time in health system performance, including facility preparedness, provider morale and motivation, and health outcomes.
Biography: Emma Clarke-Deelder is a PhD candidate in Population Health Sciences with a concentration in Global Health and Population. Her research focuses on informing the design of policies and programs that improve access to high quality health services among underserved populations. Her current projects include an evaluation of an immunization outreach program in India, and a study of quality of care for postpartum hemorrhage in Kenya. Before starting her PhD, Emma worked with Laterite in Rwanda and with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in Switzerland. She holds a BA in Government from Cornell and an MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge.



Esesua Ikpefan (Graduate School of Design)
Ikpefan Photo
Project Title: Lagos: Power Structure and the Colonial Archive
This work is particularly focused on how the cultural persistence of tensions between regional, class, sociopolitical, and ethnic identities in nations like Nigeria is importantly rooted in the colonial past and the hard legacy of hierarchical roles that continue to be reinforced both by material (built) and discursive (political) structures.
Biography: As a third year Doctor of Design candidate, Esesua Ikpefan’s work aims to advocate the importance of the spatial dimensions of inequality and marginalization in Lagos, Nigeria. Her research sees the built environment as both an informer of conflict and identity as well as a reflection of these issues. She focuses her work on the intersection between heritage, identity, inequality, and colonial legacies in Nigeria’s urban centers. Esesua also holds a B.F.A. in Environmental and Interior Design form Syracuse University. She has been working as a Teaching Fellow at both the GSD and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. She held a position as a Research Assistant at the Just City Lab and served as the Logistics Committee Lead for the 2019 Black in Design Conference.


Youngkwang Jeon (Graduate School of Education)
YoungKwang Photo
Project Title: Polygyny as a Predictor of Children's Early Development in sub-Saharan African Countries
The proposed research investigates the association between polygyny and children’s early development status, encompassing their early stimulation and mothers responsive care and supervision in 28 sub-Saharan African countries. The research will address two potentially competing hypotheses: polygyny is associated with an improved early childhood care and development, or conversely, polygyny is associated with the poorer status of early care and development of a child.
Biography: Youngkwang Jeon is a graduate student in the International Education Policy program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research interests lie in the intersection between global health, early childhood education, and developmental economics. Youngkwang aspires to demonstrate the impact of early childhood education and development programs on cognitive and non-cognitive capital of young children, and their later socio-economic outcomes in low- and middle-income countries, specifically located in sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to the current Ed.M. program, Youngkwang graduated from Boston College with a B.A. degree in Human Development. He holds a M.Div. degree from Yale Divinity School where he was a Yale’s President Public Service Fellow.


Neena Kapoor and Valentina Vargas (Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health)
Neena Kapoor Photo    Valentina Vargas Photo
Project Title: For Somali women who have undergone FGM, how, if at all, has the U.S. health system met their needs?
This qualitative research study’s objective is to fill the knowledge gap around interactions with the healthcare system of Somali women having suffered FGM and migrated to the U.S. This will allow for a holistic view of women's health needs and wishes, and potentially demonstrate the marginalization of FGM victims from our current healthcare system. This data will inform policies and culturally sensitive training for healthcare providers who may care for patients who have experienced FGM.

Neena is currently a second-year Master of Science student in Global Health & Population at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She is concentrating my studies in both Maternal and Child Health and Women, Gender, and Health, because as a woman of color, she is dedicated to improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations such as  women, children, and sexual minorities. She is committed to a career in research to provide evidence for meaningful health systems-level change in global contexts.

Valentina is a second-year Master of Science student within the Global Health Department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She has concentrations in both Maternal and Child Health along with Women, Gender, & Health. Her research interests include interventions for those living with HIV, FGM in Somaliland, and barriers to maternal services delivery in LMICs.



Michael Ashan Rodriguez (Harvard Kennedy School)
ashan_rodriguez photo
Project Title: Improving SOE service delivery in Ethiopia
Ethiopia needed significant reforms in its state-owned enterprises (SOEs) prior to the pandemic, however, moving forward with the reforms is even more important now. The reforms will support infrastructure development, encourage growth and competition, and enable the government to undertake COVID-19 recovery and mitigation policies.
Biography: Ashan hails from Sri Lanka and is a student at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he is a second year pursuing a Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID). Prior to Harvard, he worked in the African Department of the International Monetary Fund, specializing on small oil-producing economies and governance issues in the region. His current research work focuses on Ethiopian state-owned enterprises and their burden on the government’s balance sheet. The work focuses on state firms in key sectors vital to the success of the government’s homegrown economic reform agenda. When not consumed by coursework, he enjoys playing bridge and rugby and is an avid fan of the outdoors.


Tadiwanashe Madenga (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences)
Tadiwa Madenga Photo
Project Title: The Zimbabwe International Book Fair: Literature, Public Display, and Erotic Self-Making
My dissertation is an analysis of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, which seeks to examine how literary histories mediate sexual politics. The 1995 fair, in particular, was the first public confrontation between former president Robert Mugabe and the Gay and Lesbian Association of Zimbabwe. I ask how the 1995 fair as a site of display and spectatorship produced sexuality as an aesthetic concept.
Biography: Tadiwa Madenga is a PhD candidate in African and African American Studies, with a primary field in English. Her research interests include media theory, queer poetics, and Zimbabwean literature.


Pamela Nwakanma (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences)
Pamela Kwakanma Photo
Project Title: Women, Power, and Networks: The Gendered Politics of Economic Empowerment
My research investigates women's empowerment in business and politics. Specifically, my work uses an interdisciplinary and multimethod approach to examine the role of social networks in moderating the relationship between economic power and political power amongst female entrepreneurs operating in diverse sectors of the Nigerian economy. My project considers the case of market women, and women in the emerging tech industry, in order to understand how traditional forms of economic engagement might differ from contemporary forms of economic engagement in shaping women’s political empowerment in the 21st century.
Biography: Adaugo Pamela Nwakanma is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government with a secondary field in the Department of African and African American Studies. Among other things, she researches and teaches on the political economy of gender and development in various emerging economies, with particular emphasis on the African context. Her dissertation investigates the intersection of women's empowerment in business and politics. Prior to her doctoral studies, Nwakanma worked as an Urban Education Fellow and Vice-HBO Translator in New York City. She received her B.A in International Studies-Economics with a secondary field in Linguistics from the University of California, San Diego in 2014.


Adriaan Steyn (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences)
Adriaan Steyn_headshot
Project Title: Examinations and Expectations: Schooling, Youth Unemployment and the Future in South Africa
I will live and conduct ethnographic fieldwork in Worcester, South Africa, for my doctoral dissertation. Against the background of immense racial inequality and a youth unemployment rate of 59%, I will follow a diverse group of twelfth-grade students as they prepare to write the matric exam (the national high school exit-exam), and as they ready themselves to enter a nebulous postschool world. I am particularly interested in exploring their expectations of schooling and of the future.
Biography: Adriaan Steyn was born and raised in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He completed his BA, honors, and MA degrees at Stellenbosch University in Social Anthropology. He is currently a G4 in African and African American Studies with a primary field in Anthropology. He is also a teaching fellow in the African Languages Program. Additionally, his research is concerned with the future-making practices of a diverse group of twelfth-grade students in the South African public-school system. They are preparing to cross the threshold into a tenuous postschool world that offers few certainties, especially considering the country’s youth unemployment rate of 59%.


We are currently accepting applications for our spring 2021 graduate semester research grants. Students can apply for up to $5,000 in funding for research expenses. The deadline to apply is February 15th, 2021. More information on student grants here.