Hannah Craig is a Tulane senior studying Public Health and Environmental Studies.
Hannah Craig is a Tulane senior studying Public Health and Environmental Studies. She is writing her Honors Thesis about the experiences of refugee women who sought-- and continue to seek-- asylum in Europe during the recent crisis. The project throws light on the violence faced by some of the most marginalized women in society.
Hannah’s project is fundamentally motivated by a desire to facilitate societal change. Though she always planned to write a thesis, in the aftermath of the 2016 election, she realized she wanted her topic to be “politically relevant” as well. Now that the Me Too movement has publicized the experiences of women in relatively visible fields, such as media and entertainment, Hannah says it is important to continue the process for all women, including refugees.
The personal experiences of refugees is a topic of long-time interest for Hannah. As a junior, she concluded her study abroad semester in Chile with an independent research project, studying the integration of Syrian refugees there. Last summer, she worked with Catholic Charities, Louisiana’s designated resettlement agency. Over winter break, she travelled to Greece and volunteered at a refugee camp.
Hannah was not officially conducting research during her time in Greece; rather, she says she felt she could not write about the personal experiences of refugees without further developing a “personal connection to the community.” She volunteered for Refugee Support Europe in a camp outside the town of Filippiada, five hours west of Athens.
Her previous experience in researching and working with refugees provided Hannah with an invaluable platform for her project. Not only is she using many of the same background sources, but she also knows how to manage her time, work with large documents, and stay motivated. Most importantly, she knows that she has a real passion for increasing the prominence of refugee experiences in public discourse.
With her thesis, Hannah is compiling a comprehensive list of incidents of violence perpetrated against refugee women during the European refugee crisis, alongside a list of policy demands which could improve the situation. Sexual violence is, of course, an under-reported issue everywhere, but this is especially true amongst refugees. Organizations supporting them often have no formalized process for reporting, and no motivation to publish statistics or take action against perpetrators. Language is also a large barrier between survivors and those that could help. As Hannah says, many of these obstacles are common to all survivors of sexual assault, but they are “amplified” by the marginalization of refugees.
Working with reports from newspapers, the UN, and on-the-ground organizations, Hannah is hoping that she can begin to convey the full extent of the problem faced by women in the current refugee crisis, and in war in general. She is supported by her thesis committee: Dr. Nancy Mock, Associate Professor of Public Health, Dr. Elke de Buhr, Assistant Professor of Public Health, and Dr. Kathleen Davis, Associate Professor of Spanish.
Hannah’s advice to aspiring thesis writers is to remember that you are in control of your own project. You should try to ignore pre-conceived ideas about how your thesis is supposed to look, and lead your project where you want it to go. That’s what she has done for her thesis, and this attitude has helped her shape it into an undertaking that she hopes can have a real impact on people’s lives.