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Assessing the process of researching a sensitive subject in a cross-cultural setting: An example from Botswana

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Title: Assessing the process of researching a sensitive subject in a cross-cultural setting: An example from Botswana
Author: Smith, Stephanie
Department: School of Rural Planning and Development
Advisor: Reid, Donald G.
Abstract: Millions of women and children suffer from sexual violence and abuse everyday. It is a serious and pervasive issue which has impeded human development for many years and which is considered endemic throughout the developing world, including Africa. There are several socioeconomic and health implications for women survivors of rape and sexual abuse, and which serve as impediments to achieving a higher quality of life. For many researchers however, research studies and methods of data collection in this area are often hampered by the inability to elicit information concerning what many individuals consider to be a 'sensitive subject'. Rape and sexual abuse are no exception in this matter, since it is often located within traditional cultural and societal norms with regards to sexuality. The question this raises for researchers then is: how do we go about researching a sensitive subject in a cross-cultural setting? This study seeks to describe the process of doing feminist participatory research using an evaluation of a rape crisis centre in Botswana as an example. Observations of this process reveal that the feminist participatory model supports an environment conducive to working in collaboration with communities and organizations in a cross-cultural setting. As a result, researchers are provided with valuable insights and information regarding a sensitive subject that they might not otherwise obtain. However, this study revealed several problems which most feminist writers neglect: the feminist participatory model is limited by the idea that women are 'inherently' cooperative and collaborative. As such, this model does not have the power to transcend the cultural barriers surrounding sensitive subjects.
Date: 2000
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