Kerrie Thornhill

Scholars
2012
Mentor(s): 
Study program:
D.Phil. Geography and Environment
Current affiliation:
University of Oxford
Localisation:

She is examining perceptions of gender violence in postwar Liberia, in institutional as well as informal advocacy work

 

Reconstructed Meanings of Gender Violence in Post-war Liberia

Gender-based violence is second only to poverty as the most globally widespread and egregious violation of women's human rights. Post-conflict regions, such as the Mano River Region of West Africa, have experienced elevated rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, and sexual exploitation years after armed conflict has ended. As a result, governments and humanitarion organisations have developed numerous programs to address gender-based violence; yet, there is relatively little documentation of precisely what messages these campaigns convey, and their underlying beliefs and values.

My research examines institutional and informal public discourses on sexual and gender-based violence in post-war Liberia. Prominent beliefs and narrative patterns are interpreted in relation to Liberia's social history, particularly the transformations to gender roles and relations caused by colonialism, armed conflict, and the post-war institutional restructuring. By better understanding the underlying social significance of human rights discourses, humanitarian organisations can increase the efficacy of their advocacy programs.

Kerrie was born in Alberta and grew up on Vancouver Island, where as a teenager she co-founded the Nanaimo chapter of Free The Children. She led conferences on sustainable development after spending one month in Nepal trekking to rural projects with Trans-Himalayan Aid Society.

At the University of British Columbia, Kerrie Thornhill studied international relations with a focus on human security and gender and development. In 2003, she travelled to Africa for the first time, studying microfinance and women's entrepreneurship in Benin, and sharing the findings at various events and conferences. She also volunteered for the Red Cross Committee on International Humanitarian Law, chaired the UBC branch of World University Service of Canada, and facilitated a student-directed seminar on development issues in Africa.

After graduating, Kerrie worked as a gender advocacy advisor for the Ministry of Education in Bawku, Ghana. Upon returning to Canada, she trained in frontline anti-rape advocacy and crisis support and information, volunteering in Vancouver and Calgary. From 2007-2008 she worked with the non-profit Calgary Immigrant Women's Association. As a side project, she developed her cartooning skills and self-published an awareness-raising comic book on gender violence and war entitled Rainbow Girl.

With the generous support of the Oxford University Clarendon Scholarship, she read for the MPhil in development studies at the Oxford Department of International Development, 2008-2010.  While researching post-conflict gender-based violence in Liberia, she was privileged to live and work with a community-based organization called Healthy Communities Brighter Futures.

Before starting her DPhil in geography and the environment at Oxford, Kerrie volunteered as a consultant for Oxfam Great Britain and supervised a research team in urban Ghana with Oxford's Centre for the Study of African Economies. Back at Oxford, she is a junior dean for Hertford College, a junior affiliate member of International Gender Studies, and the coordinator of a new academic networking initiative, Oxford Gender Hub.
 
In her spare time, Kerrie enjoys long-distance running and hiking, the highlights of which include a solo trek of the West Coast Trail (2011), the Juan de Fuca Trail (2005), and various half-marathons.