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‘Designing the body’ project secures NWO KIEM grant

03 July 2018
Dr Brenda Bartelink

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded a KIEM grant to Designing the body. African-Dutch women’s narratives on health and wellbeing , a project by, with and for African-Dutch women in which their stories take centre stage. Dr Brenda Bartelink, a postdoc researcher in the field of religion, health, gender and sexuality at the Centre for Religion, Health and Wellbeing at the University of Groningen Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies is the project’s coordinator. Bartelink will work on the project with designer Gabriela Bustamante from Design that Matters and Lerina Kwamba from Kariboe Bibi, a centre for the empowerment of African women in The Hague, and place where these women can meet.

Hearing and seeing African migrant women

The aim of the project is to help African migrant women increase their visibility and make themselves heard, with specific regard to their health and wellbeing. The lives and bodies of African-Dutch women are a regular topic of heated debate on religion, culture and themes such as child marriage and female circumcision. In the public domain these women are often depicted in the context of victimhood and subordination. Their voices are often missing from these debates. How do these women give shape to their lives, appearance and the choices they make about their bodies?

Narratives in delftware

In a number of workshops, African-Dutch women will tell each other their stories and experiences of how it is to be an African woman in the Netherlands. They will then visualize these stories with designer Gabriela Bustamante, and in a closing event in 2019, will share these with people who work for the municipality or for care and welfare organizations, and people from the art and research worlds. And how better to give shape to the stories of African-Dutch women who are seeking to make their home in the Netherlands than through typically Dutch delftware? Delftware dolls will be the medium the women use to get themselves seen and heard, the narrators of the stories they want to tell about themselves amidst the clamour of the public debate on gender inequality, migration, child marriage and so on.

Sensitive social themes

Dr Brenda Bartelink works at the Centre for Religion, Health and Wellbeing at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. She specializes in quantitative and ethnographic research into sensitive social themes such as gender, sexuality and violence against women, and has wide experience in applying the findings of research into sensitive themes in a way that will benefit society. She does so by conducting applied research, advising on policy and working with the public and charity sector and artists.

Improve health and wellbeing of African-Dutch women

The KIEM grant that the NWO has awarded to the Designing the body project stands for Knowledge and Innovation Mapping and focuses on answering research questions arising from practice. Brenda Bartelink: ‘We are really pleased with this KIEM grant because it means we can do the research with the women instead of into the women. We will therefore be able to show how social support, design and research can improve the health and wellbeing of African-Dutch women. We want to help African-Dutch women in The Hague become visible in a positive way and ensure that policy and activities meet

The Hague become visible in a positive way and ensure that policy and activities meet these women’s needs.’

Read more about this project on the Facebook page and

To Kiss or not To Kiss - Gabriela Bustamante
To Kiss or not To Kiss - Gabriela Bustamante
Last modified:12 June 2023 8.19 p.m.
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