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Marjoke Oosterom

Research Fellow

Marjoke Oosterom is a research fellow and the cluster leader of the Power and Popular Politics research cluster at IDS. She holds a PhD from IDS and has a background in comparative politics and development studies. Her research concentrates on how experiences of violence and conflict affect forms of agency, citizenship, and everyday politics and governance. Her specific expertise is on youth politics and youth agency in response to insecurity and violence, and politics in the informal economy. She has been involved in consultancy work for policy makers and international NGOs that fund and implement governance and youth-focused interventions in fragile and conflict affected settings.

Marjoke’s research focuses on how past and current experiences of violence shape people’s political agency in community security and peacebuilding, and to engage with the state and other political actors. She has also studied experiences of citizenship and agency among internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in conflict settings, and their interactions with humanitarian actors and forms of public authority. Violent settings are often unfavourable to citizen action, and the political space for civil society can be limited. This research helps understand what kind of institutions and forms of leadership are legitimate in the eyes of people, and how people negotiate multiple forms of authority. Marjoke is involved in the Action for Empowerment and Accountability programme in fragile settings, and she has also worked on IDS projects on changing civic space.

Within the broader theme of violence and agency, Marjoke has specific expertise on youth politics, youth agency, and the politics of youth employment. While popular assumptions hold that especially unemployed and ‘idle’ youth are at risk of participating in violence, the majority of young people do not engage in violence and are active citizens in their own ways. Marjoke leads the Strategic Research Initiative ‘Ensuring youth employment and inclusive politics’, which is part of the IDS Strategy for 2020-2025. IDS research undertaken within this strategic initiative contributes to new thinking on youth engagement and the links between youth employment and citizenship, including in fragile settings. Marjoke’s current research focuses on youth interventions in semi-authoritarian regimes (NorGlobal); and she is the Principal Investigator on an ESRC-funded project on political socialization and the informal economy in Zimbabwe; and a British Academy-funded project on young women’s responses to sexual violence in the workplace in Uganda and Bangladesh.

Marjoke uses qualitative research approaches, including participatory and visual methods like Photo Voice. She has facilitated youth-led research and cooperative enquiry, which ensures young people’s voices and perspectives are central to research projects. Her geographical  expertise is on Sub-Saharan Africa, especially Zimbabwe, Uganda Ethiopia, and Nigeria.

Many of her research projects are conducted in collaboration with civil society actors, designed to inform their programmes and strategies. For instance, a study for Plan International UK helped to inform advocacy regarding UNSCR 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security. Project outputs include multimedia outputs that enhance research uptake and impact. See for instance the documentary ‘The Governance Gap’ on citizenship in the Acholi region, post-conflict northern Uganda.


With other colleagues she has been involved in various studies and trainings for donors and civil society organisations, such as workshops in power analysis, studies on civic space, and integrating gender and youth focus in programme design. In 2018 she facilitated a series of learning events on Youth Employment & Citizenship for DFID, Dutch Aid, Irish Aid, and Danida, with participation from USAID, IDRC, and the AfDB.


Marjoke is co-convenor of the module Power & Social Perspectives on Development together with Marina Apgar. She also teaches sessions on qualitative methods and action research. She currently supervises two PhD candidates, JoonYeol Lee (with Jodie Thorpe and John Gaventa) and Aly Khalil (with Prof. Mariz Tadros). She holds a PGCert certification as a fellow of the British Academy for Higher Education.

For PhD Applicants

Marjoke welcomes PhD applications on the following topics:

  • Effects of violence and violent conflict on citizenship, agency, and governance, including in informal urban settlements, contexts of forced displacement and humanitarian settings, as well as post-conflict settings.
  • Civic space; civil society in contexts of political violence, surveillance, and armed conflict.
  • Youth, peacebuilding, security, the role of young people in (post)conflict settings, youth in the informal economy, youth protest, and other forms of youth action/agency.
  • Forced displacement, the agency of refugees and IDPs, and camp governance.
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Youth employment and politics

Over 40 percent of global populations are under 25 yet young people cannot secure work and increasingly face a crisis of citizenship. Youth Employment and Politics at IDS builds on decades of research to develop knowledge and evidence that contributes to effective interventions that supports,...


The Gendered Price of Precarity

Marjoke Oosterom and Sohela Nazneen have won a British Academy Grant under the GCRF Youth Futures Call. The project, ‘The gendered price of precarity: Workplace sexual harassment and young women's agency’, will focus on female workers in Uganda and Bangladesh. The study aims to contribute to...


European Engagement Initiative

The European Engagement Initiative provides research focus on the universal development challenges that have a global dimension within a region undergoing geopolitical change. It recognises that now the UK is out of the European Union it is even more important for IDS to engage with partners,...


Learning on the Streets. Youth and vending in urban Zimbabwe

IDS Research fellow Marjoke Oosterom has won an ESRC New Investigators grant to do research on youth and political socialization in the informal economy. Research partners are Tinotenda Chishiri (RAU), Dr. Rekopantswe Mate (University of Zimbabwe) and Simbarashe Gukurume (Great Zimbabwe...



New Handbook: Youth active citizenship for decent jobs

Today, IDS and three of our partners in Zimbabwe launch a Handbook that will help to integrate youth active citizenship strategies in employment interventions. It is not just the magnitude of youth unemployment that is a global challenge, but the creation of enough decent, good-quality jobs for...

17 March 2022



Tackling Workplace Sexual Harassment

IDS Policy Briefing 195

Based on case study research with factory and domestic workers in Bangladesh and Uganda, this briefing explains how social and gender norms constrain young women’s voices and agency in response to sexual harassment.

23 May 2022

Marjoke Oosterom’s recent work