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Our Rights, Our Communities: The empowerment of being a peer researcher

24 Nov 2022 | Our Rights Our Communities Peer Researchers

Has doing your own research been empowering and why? 

It was a new experience for all of us and we learned a lot. 

Definitely, it was empowering for us. Because, at first, we didn’t know how to communicate our message but now we have a little more knowledge of how to carry our Doing a little peer research has opened up our eyes, now we can see what to do to change things and to look at things from different angles. I would say yes, it has changed the way I see stuff and it empowered us. 

As a group it has empowered us because it has built our capacity. This is important because we want to build a new model of peer advocacy. Also, we want to go and train other New Scots communities how to do this. So you have passed on your skills to us, and we can then go and teach other communities how to do this. 

Through the peer research process, decisions have been made by us, not about us or without us. This is what I tell other researchers in a more standard research set-up. Those researchers often aren’t taking on board our views and this is upsetting and annoying. We understand our cause, we understand our background, so it was much easier for us to do the research ourselves.  

Group blog image

Doing the research ourselves as a group, it’s our unedited truth. If a researcher had done it for us, then it would have been an edited version. I am sceptical with most researchers – I always say “who did you do the research with?” when they are talking about findings. In this instance we did the research ourselves – we know it was done by ourselves, with us and for the people. 

What were the most challenging parts of this work? 

Accessibility, especially childcare. People dropped out early on because we couldn’t provide childcare for young children. An accessible venue or a venue that allows you to bring children and then organise your own childcare along with that would have helped. 

Also, finding a quiet place to do the interviews was a challenge. Because we did most of the interviews during the women’s groups, so finding a quiet, private area was difficult. 

Time was a challenge. I have a lot on my plate, so finding time to put this into a priority was a challenge. I know it’s a priority because it’s about making change. It’s my priority. But I still needed to find time to prioritise it. Sickness, children, life – it all gets in the way sometimes. 

Different languages and the different accents people have mean we can’t understand what people are saying sometimes. English is our third or fourth language, so we needed to understand each other and communicate. We are patient with each other, and we try to understand each other. 

Language differences can make it difficult to understand the real emotions of the person when you are interviewing them. Also, the people we interviewed had different cultures – it is not just the language but the culture and religion that are all different too. You have to be open- minded to understand the person when you are interviewing them. The eight of us, we all have different cultures, so it takes time to understand each other. 

Are there solutions to the challenge of language differences? 

Getting an interpreter for different languages is not always the solution to this problem. Sometimes it can change everything because there are things a woman can say with her peers that she cannot say with an interpreter. But a peer interpreter would work better. 

If I find someone who speaks the same language as me, I can say things I wouldn’t say in English. There are analogies and words I can use in my own language that don’t translate into English. Because the language represents a shared experience, background, understanding – it’s a place of comfort and safety. 

Sometimes when you learn a word or sentence in English it’s difficult to translate it into your language.  There are words in every language that are so hard to translate. If a person is speaking about their culture, there are often words that cannot be translated because they are culture specific. There is just no word in English or no word in your own language to say certain things. 

Language is not the only dimension. The language is culture- specific, so a French speaker (for example) is not the only thing you need, they also have to be from your culture. A lot of language is culture-specific and background-specific. So you need a culturally relevant translator. Intonation, vocabulary all those things affect the meaning of what is said, and they can be specific to a culture. 

Some interviewees are confident to do interviews in English and for them that is the best option. For some, the interview is easiest in another language and then the work for the interviewer is in the translation. In the translation you can repeat and repeat listening and do the translation that way.  

Freedom to use whatever language you need to with that interviewee is important and is also an important right to have when carrying out research. 

This blog is part of a series produced for Co-Pro Week 2022. The other blogs in the series can be accessed here: 

Blog 1, Lydia – ‘Our Rights, Our Communities: Knowledge is power’

Blog 2, Lisa – ‘Our Rights, Our Communities: Co-production in practice’

Blog 3, Lily – ‘Our Rights, Our Communities: the benefits of community-based research’

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