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Challenges Faced – Implications for Policy: The Everyday Lives of Eastern European Women in New Zealand

This study explored the everyday lives, aspirations, and coping strategies of seven Eastern European immigrant women in New Zealand who came from Bulgaria, the former Eastern Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia. The answers to the research questions aimed to contribute to the deconstruction of the invisibility and marginalisation of these women in New Zealand. Guided by the philosophies of Kaupapa Māori Research; the theory of Human Wellbeing; and the theory of Positive Psychology, and using the methods of narrative inquiry, three interviews were conducted with each participant. The focus of the first interviews was to learn about the everyday lives of research participants in their countries of origin. The second interview explored the reasons of relocation to New Zealand, the settlement process, and how women re-established their lives in their new locations. In the final interviews women talked about their current everyday lives and their plans for the future. Interviews were recorded and summarised in interview summary reports which research participants modified in collaboration with the researcher until a final version was achieved. In addition, women participated in two focus group sessions. The first session was devoted to establish connections among the participants and allow themes to emerge from their conversations. The second group session aimed to explore areas women struggled with in their lives the most: relationships and employment opportunities. The study yielded contributions to the research topic, to the acculturation literature, and to the design of research with migrants. Firstly, it revealed both negative and positive aspects of the participants’ everyday lives and highlighted some under-researched cultural differences from the mainstream population. Women highlighted as an important cultural difference their strong preference for straightforward communication which was often experienced as offensive and blatant by local New Zealanders. Research participants critiqued the necessity of networking to obtain jobs in New Zealand which is a clear obstacle for a newly arrived migrant. This study also highlighted how the acculturation process is more individual and complex than conventional models have sought to explain. While traditional acculturation literature suggests that migrants go through some common patterns during their settlement that ideally leads to their assimilation to the host culture, in this research not all migrant women intended to assimilate. Indeed, those with a stronger wish to become part of the host culture reported more disappointments than those who embraced their cultural otherness as a positive aspect and did not mind reminding different from the dominant Pakeha culture. Finally, for migrant studies a less common research design was applied by using the Kaupapa Māori framework. This philosophy proposes a research process that empowers immigrants to voice their needs and strengthen them as agents of their lives beyond the research process. While two strength based theories were used for data interpretation (the 3-D model of the Human Wellbeing Theory and the PERMA model of Positive Psychology), the data analysis revealed that both models showed some limitations by failing to incorporate the dimension of spiritual and physical wellbeing within their domains.
Type of thesis
Ember, A. (2016). Challenges Faced – Implications for Policy: The Everyday Lives of Eastern European Women in New Zealand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10795
University of Waikato
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