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More Than a Home: Adolescent Development and Housing Insecurity

This study elicits narratives of home from previously unhoused adolescents in Lagos, Nigeria to understand how housing insecurity interacts with adolescent development. A common manifestation of housing insecurity in Lagos is the creation of informal settlements often called “slum communities”: a cluster of shanty houses built illegally with scrap material usually on abandoned/uninhabited land. These communities lack basic infrastructure and public services to promote and sustain healthy living such as water, drainage, and sanitation; additionally, the poor materials used in the construction of these shanty houses offer little security, placing residents at risk of injury, violence, and death. These risks are exacerbated by state and private responses to the proliferation of these communities, which has been to destroy them, usually by fire and other violent means, leaving residents no choice but to flee and relocate with their family and any remaining property. Since residents typically have multiple children, these experiences will likely have implications for their later development, as adolescents come to understand themselves and their place in the world based on their experiences as children.  Because these experiences go untold, proposed “solutions” to slum communities do not take into consideration these negative developmental outcomes. 


While the social, health, and economic aspects of slum living are often the subject of inquiry, less attention has been given to the psychological effects of slum conditions on the young, especially during sensitive periods of development. In the literature that does exist, young children have received more attention than adolescents. Not only do adolescents merit study in their own right, but a narrative approach to the study of adolescents can also shed light on childhood experiences, as they are better able to articulate their experiences as a child than young children themselves are able to do. This project focuses on how adolescents interpret the experience of forced removal from these slum communities and what these interpretations tell us about how society and the government should address slum communities. It is part of a larger study on the systematic analysis of adolescence and factors that influence different psychosocial developmental outcomes, demonstrating the need for social policies that have human development perspectives at the forefront. 

Adanne's Tale: A Spoken Word Short Film

Adanne is a fictional character that represents the realities of so many young children in Nigeria-- children who have no secure home and very little hope for tomorrow. But you and I can make a difference. Watch to the end for how you can support children like Adanne. She is waiting for you.

Forthcoming projects

Social Constructions of "Homeless": A Discourse Analysis

Alternative Education Programs for Out-of-School Adolescents

Education for Children in Conflict with the Law

Conferences and Presentations

Ekwuruke, Fortunate Kelechi. "I just went to school for the sake of it": Housing insecurity, education & adolescent development in Nigeria. Paper presented at the 68th Comparative International Education Society (CIES) Annual Conference, Miami. 2024 

Ekwuruke, Fortunate Kelechi. Becoming an Empowered Woman: African Girlhood and Development Agendas. Paper presented at the African Studies Association annual conference, Philadelphia. 2022

Ekwuruke, Fortunate Kelechi. Homelessness Comes to School. Poster presented at the ECS Master’s Student Symposium, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, Philadelphia. 2019

Ekwuruke, Fortunate Kelechi. The Effect of Immigration on the Culture of Igbo Nigerians in America. Paper presented at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma. 2018


Nuamah, S.A. & Ekwuruke, F.K. "Becoming an Empowered Woman: Exploring the Complexities of Education for African Girls". In progress



Global development agendas consistently center the education of girls as the key to women’s empowerment. Women and girls have been described as “untapped resources” and the education and “empowerment” of them as necessary for economic advancement and sufficiency. This narrow conceptualization of women’s empowerment ignores the complexities present in the lives of these women and girls and what they experience on their path to becoming an “empowered woman.” Moreover, what they think about these policies and programs is rarely accounted for in research or discourse regarding women’s empowerment initiatives and global development agendas. The present study utilizes a narrative research design to highlight the voices and perspectives of African women who have participated women’s empowerment programs from Western-based organizations. Drawing on in-depth interviews with young Ghanaian women, the study identifies how sociocultural factors, political structures, and deeply entrenched gender biases work to minimize the empowering effect of education. Findings from the study provide insight into the limitations of empowerment agendas that rely on access to schooling and offer ways that frameworks can be more comprehensive in the context of African girls.

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