PhD researcher brings gender equity issues among island populations to the forefront

Sushma Dusowoth

PhD candidate | French Studies

When people from the western world think of islands, they often think of vacation destinations. For French PhD student Sushma Dusowoth, her unique perspective instead examines these island populations through a socio-cultural and gender equity lens. Being a Canadian-Mauritian of Indian descent, Sushma’s research focuses on the status of women in the islands of the Indian Ocean, namely the Mauritius and Comoro Islands. Sushma says, “With my research, I hope to abolish the stereotypes associated with these areas and encourage people to focus on the struggles of women there.”

Sushma has wSushma working at a deskorked within the education field for over a decade in roles that span being the Education Officer at the Ministry of Education in Mauritius from 2006-2014 to working as a part-time instructor at the University of Waterloo, a role she has held since 2017. Sushma says, “My job as an educator has made me aware that a lot of students face various struggles in their lives, especially if they are girls. Because of this, I have decided to work on a part of the world which we almost don’t hear of and where women are struggling for their rights.”

Through her work, Sushma wants to give a voice to voiceless women. By addressing the little-known battles women must go through while living within these islands, which have been subjected to colonization, slavery, and indentured servitude, she is doing so. Sushma says, “I try to demonstrate how the influence of these historical events has impacted the lives of women in these islands. These effects can still be seen today through the existing patriarchal system which oppresses them and their rights”.Girl carrying bottles on her back

Sushma says that her research connects to the current discussion about equality issues involving women and minorities. She says, “My research connects different parts of the world through the fight for women’s rights. Ultimately, whether women are living in the west or any other part of the world, it is only by depriving them of their fundamental rights that they can be dominated and subjected to abuse and violence.” Her research reinforces the notion that when fighting for the rights of women, attention should be paid not just to the western world, but to developing countries as well.

During her time at the University of Waterloo, Sushma immersed herself within the French community. She worked within [L’Association des étudiant(e)s d’études supérieures en français / AEESF], also known as the Graduate Student Association for the Department of French Studies in the President role from (2019-2020) and in the Vice-President role from (2018-2019). She also held the role of President for the annual student conference Convergences in 2019, and Treasurer of the committee in 2018. Sushma further used her knowledge within French Studies to assist undergraduate students with their French course work by volunteering her time with the Centre d'Aide à la Rédaction (French Writing Centre).

When considering her advice to students contemplating graduate studies, Sushma says, “The University of Waterloo is one of the greatest places to study. Work hard, aim high. Efforts are always recognized and rewarded. It is a fun journey, enjoy the ride.”