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South East Technological University’s (SETU) School of Education and Lifelong Learning (SoELL) recently hosted a talk by Dr Méabh Savage which demonstrated the power of participatory photo projects in raising awareness of the educational needs of marginalised groups. The seminar was held as part of SoELL’s Education Research and Doctoral Seminar Series.

Titled “Using PhotoVoice as a participatory action research methodology with mothers ‘out of home’ living in direct provision”, Méabh aims to promote equity of access and participation in education for mothers living in direct provision. Her research seeks to include their voices and experiences in the design and delivery of educational policy and practices.

Dr Savage is the first and current chair of the Vicky Phelan Honorary Research Chair in Equality and Access to Education. A critical pillar of this role is to research how the University and wider society can open access to participation in education, specifically focusing on women.

Commenting on her research, Dr Savage said: “I use methods like PhotoVoice which empower marginalised groups to have a say in matters that affect their lives, in this case, mothers 'out of home' living in direct provision. These approaches can offer insights into advancing educational equality by placing women’s voices at the centre of how to bring about change. PhotoVoice is a method that involves participatory photography, storytelling, and advocacy to effect social change for marginalised groups.

“The main objective of the study is to critically narrate and express visually the factors that enable and constrain the women/mothers’ access and participation in education, and to envision what equality of access and participation might look like for them.”

Dr Savage says "there is little research in Ireland which explores the specific lived experiences of education for mothers living in, or who have lived in, direct provision.” A 2021 study by Satori et al. highlighted a range of barriers and enablers around migrant access to education. These include stigma, discrimination, lack of information, poverty, and shame. This current study aims to add to our understanding of this issue with a specific focus on the gendered experiences of mothers living in direct provision.

The SoELL Education Research and Doctoral Seminar Series was launched in February 2023 and has since included highly engaging and informative presentations from Dr Niamh O’Brien, Dr Catherine Lowry-O’Neill, Dr Mary Fenton and Dr Sergio Botelho Jr, who all sought to cultivate a culture of research, knowledge sharing, and academic good practice.

The next SoELL event will take place on Wednesday, 21 February. Presented by Dr Caroline McGarry, the seminar will trace her personal and academic journey, while providing insights from her PhD research.