Women Educators and Activists: Creating Structural Spaces for Social Transformation

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Krahn, Sandra Lynn
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Three exceptional female educators have shared stories of their educational careers to provide insight into how women create peacebuilding systems in their communities through educational leadership. This study explores the concept of broad social change through transforming structures that inflict structural violence and breaking down barriers that exclude marginalized communities. An analysis of three women that are educators and activists found that extensive networks, based on an ethics of care and the creation of liminal spaces, supported structural transformations that help students from marginalized communities receive meaningful access to education. Rooted in literature concerning women in social theory and education, social network theory, conflict transformation and multi-track diplomacy, this study uses constructivist grounded theory to analyse data. Three primary participants were interviewed and observed. Interviews were also conducted with other individuals within their networks. The three peacebuilding systems, two in Canada and one in India, were created through the leadership of three women who strived throughout their entire careers to create spaces of dignity and equity for their students. These women worked at multiple levels, ranging from their individual classrooms to engaging in international dialogue. A wide variety of values and principles formed the foundation of their work including an open-door policy, equity, creative thinking, hard work, compulsory compassion, and transforming social spaces. They addressed structural barriers through employing social experimentation, respect, cooperation, leveraging social capital, and constructing extensive networks. The goal of peacebuilding is to create active communities that work together and where all members can participate equally and prosper, especially the most vulnerable. This study focused on multiple structural barriers faced by individuals and groups when attempting to fully participate in society. The peacebuilding systems the primary participants created are rooted in the concept of natality, networks of care, and compassionate action. Social agency is nurtured through the process of identifying social needs, creating nurturing networks, and circles of care. Structural transformation was fostered through creating pathways to agency, structures supporting liminal spaces, and processes for structural transformation. These examples provide multiple lessons for educators, school administrators, policymakers, social justice advocates and researchers.
Education, Activism, Peacebuilding, Conflict Transformation, Women leadership, Structural peacebuilding, Grassroots, Educational policy change, Networking, Collaboration, Multi-track diplomacy, Social change, Ethics of care, Creative compassionate action, Structural liminality, Structural transformation, Natality, Circle of care, Education in India, Education in Canada