Elizabeth (Eliza) Ngutuku is a Researcher at the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa (FLIA). She graduated Cum laude with a PhD in Development Studies in 2020, from the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS-EUR). Her PhD research titled ‘Rhizomatic Cartographies of Children’s Lived Experience of Poverty and Vulnerability in Siaya, Kenya’, explored children’s complex lived experience of poverty and vulnerability in Kenya. In 2021, her PhD research was also awarded the prize for the best PhD thesis in 2020 by the Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities (EGSH) and was awarded the prestigious Praemium Erasmianum Foundation research prize in 2022.
Eliza holds a Master of Arts degree specialising in Women, Gender, Development also from ISS-EUR, where she was awarded the Best M.A thesis in 2005. She was also twice selected as a Laureate for the CODESRIA Child and Youth Institutes in 2012 and 2015 where she carried out research on youth and political activism, as well as poverty in early childhood.
Eliza has over 20 years of experience, working on multidisciplinary issues on children and youth development in the eastern Africa region. Some of the issues she focuses on are child poverty and vulnerability, education for marginalised children and youth, social protection, sexual and reproductive health and rights, youth activism and young people’s experience in conflict situations.
Her practice involves critical interdisciplinary research on voice and lived experience at the complex interstices of representations in policies and practice. Her work investigates children and young people’s lived experience within the context of poverty and vulnerability, conflict, activism and citizenship claims-making as well as contestations on their sexual and reproductive health and rights. She explores lived experience not as intersectional, but as an assemblage, complexly entangled with diverse structural processes, various processes of intervention and children and young people’s emergent agency.
As a scholar-activist, Eliza has been part of a movement that advocates for decolonising knowledge and leveraging local knowledge in development issues in Africa. While a doctoral researcher, she was a fellow in the four-year capacity-strengthening project on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Uganda, a Dutch-funded project led by ISS-EUR, 2016-2020. She was also a graduate teaching assistant in the ISS-EUR M.A course, ‘Qualitative Interviewing’ in ISS-EUR. In 2020, she was part of the core faculty in the postgraduate diploma course in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights led by ISS-EUR and Makerere School University School of Public Health targeting African practioners and researchers. Eliza is also an associate in the Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Makerere University School of Public Health in Kampala and its satellite centre in Lira University, Northern Uganda.
Eliza is a co-founder and previously the Executive Director of Nascent Research and Development Organisation, an institution working in eastern Africa that engages dominant knowledge in development processes. As the executive director, Eliza was a principal investigator in many of the organisations’ research-funded programmes and collaborated with think tanks, universities and children and youth focussed foundations. She is also a research mentorship advisor in Eider Africa, an organisation which aims to develop research leaders in Africa through mentorship.
Eliza is a researcher at the FLIA’s Centre for Public Authority and International Development (CPAID) project, and she has completed her research titled ‘Beyond colonial politics of identity: being, becoming and belonging as an adolescent girl among the Kamba and Luo in Kenya’. This research explored how the imperial imaginaries and practices affected the ways of being an adolescent but also unearths other place-based understandings around which the experience of adolescent girls in rural colonial Kenya was enacted. The research is aimed at re-reading and (re)gendering the dominant stories about the Other in Africa and also furthers Eliza’s long-term commitment to the need to engage the global scriptedness of interventions on children and development, identities, health and well-being in Africa.
Eliza is also in the process of implementing a new research project under CPAID which is exploring the role of grassroots actors in addressing violence in Kenya and Uganda. Drawing on her experience as a coordinator of a grassroots community of practice and in conscientizing grassroots actors, the research is exploring the complex and messy forms of agency as these actors are incorporated into larger violence intervention chains. By going beyond perspectives that tend to focus on exploitation, the research also hopes to contribute to Africanist debates about agency, subjectivity, politics, social movements and solidarities during moments of precarity.