The Oasis Reporters
May 3, 2021
This is a transcript of episode 12 of The Conversation Weekly podcast: “Why children keep getting kidnapped in Nigeria + the Kenyan women who join Al-Shabaab”. In this episode, insurgent groups in northern Nigeria continue to kidnap schoolchildren as the government struggles to protect communities against militants such as Boko Haram. And we speak to a researcher who has interviewed Kenyan women about why they joined the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab.
NOTE: Transcripts may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Gemma Ware: Hello and welcome to The Conversation Weekly. I’m Gemma Ware in London, and for this episode I’m joined by my colleague Wale Fatade in Lagos, Nigeria. Hello Wale.
Wale: Hi Gemma. Good to be with you.
Gemma: This week, why insurgent groups in northern Nigeria continue to kidnap school children.
Wale: And why the government has been unable to improve the security situation in the region.
Hakeem Onapajo: They use children to negotiate during conflict.
Gemma: And we speak to a researcher who has interviewed Kenyan women about why they joined the militant group Al-Shabaab.
Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen: So because you’re not strong as an individual then you feel like joining the Al-Shabaab.
Gemma: You’re listening to The Conversation Weekly, the world explained by experts.
Wale: Gemma, today I’m going to take you to Nigeria.
Gemma: Wale, where are we talking to you from?
Wale: I’m talking to you from Lagos, but today we are going to talk about the north, specifically the north-eastern part of Nigeria.
Gemma: And what’s it like in the north?
Wale: The north used to be very beautiful. We have partly desert, partly savannah.
You can stand in a particular location and see farther, farther, far without any structure obstructing your view, like the forest that you have in the south. But now it’s been pretty scary these days, because now it’s a scene of banditry, kidnapping and terrorist attacks.
Gemma: And we’re talking today about children in particular. So what’s it like being a child growing up in this part of Nigeria in the north?
Wale: Children used to roam around and move freely, but now to be a child in north-eastern part of Nigeria, it’s more likely to be kidnapped, abducted or taken away in the classroom or on the way to school.
Gemma: Are children still being kidnapped?
Wale: Oh yes, we had an incident in December last year where 333 students were kidnapped. Some days later, another batch of students were kidnapped from an Islamic school, in Mahuta too, in Katsina state. Early this year in February 27, students were abducted in Kagara, Niger state. Some days later, 317 school girls were abducted in Jangebe. And some days later, at the Federal College of Forestry and Agriculture, some students were kidnapped. As of now, 29 of them are still being captured by these kidnappers.
Gemma: And even this week there’s been another attack, hasn’t there?
Wale: Yeah, there’s been another attack in a town called Damasak in Borno state, which has witnessed several attacks. People have been chased away from their homes and some people were killed, I think about eight people.
Gemma: And so who is behind these attacks?
Wale: It used to be Boko Haram. It’s a terror group, that is known for abduction. Known for trying to prevent children from going to school and it loosely translate “book is forbidden”, that is anything western education is not something that they’re in support of. But now that has metamorphosed into Islamic State in West Africa, ISWAP as they are called. And then there are also other groups kidnapping for money. And these are the people that the Nigerian media loosely refer to as bandits.
Gemma: And so for this episode, you’ve been speaking to some experts about what’s been happening, right?
Wale: I’ve been speaking to two experts to find out more about why children are being targeted by insurgent groups, including Boko Haram and all these other groups. And then also the challenges the Nigerian government faces now in improving security in the northern part of the country.
Hakeem Onapajo: I’m Hakeem Onapajo, I’m a senior lecturer in the department of political science and international relations at Nile University of Nigeria. That’s in Abuja.
Wale: Hakeem’s research focuses on the northeast of Nigeria, and the neighbouring region surrounding Lake Chad.
Hakeem: I’ve researched extensively on the problem of Boko Haram and the north-eastern part of the country. So we were talking about, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger Republic. These are the areas that are more affected by the activities of the terrorists.
Wale: He says that civilians have borne much of the brunt of the conflict involving Boko Haram. The militant organisation wants to overthrow the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and create an Islamist state.
Hakeem: Civilians have been a major casualty in the whole violence in that particular region. About 16,000 people have been killed and we’ve had over 2 million people that have been displaced.
Wale: Recently, Hakeem’s research has turned to look at the impact the conflict in northern Nigeria has had on the most vulnerable: children. He’s recently published new research in the journal African Security on the issue, and has just written an article about it for The Conversation.
Hakeem: I was able to discover that the conflict has a huge impact on the welfare and security of children in that area. A UN report show that almost 4,000 children were killed between 2015 and 2016, that’s just in one year and while we have about 7,000 of them injured in various attacks.
Wale: Children have been caught right in the middle of the conflict and have as a result often suffered the most.
Hakeem: As a result of suicide attacks, as a result of air and ground strikes. As a result of extra judicial killings by state security forces, especially on suspicions of being suicide bombers.
Wale: Many of those who survive attacks are then displaced from their homes by the conflict.
Hakeem: UNICEF reported that about 57% of the total 2 million people, those who are affected as internally displaced people, in the IDP camps are children and half of this number. You have about 244,000 of them suffering from severe malnutrition. And worse still, it’s estimated that about 49,000 of them would die if there was no emergency treatment. So it’s a serious situation that we have in that part of the region. And the more worrisome aspect of it is a massive recruitment of children as child soldiers in that area.
Wale: While the conflict has only received international attention in the past five to six years, Boko Haram’s activities go back at least until 2009.
Hakeem: The activities of the group have been there for some time in terms of missionary activities.
Wale: The general consensus among researchers is that the group’s mostly missionary activities were generally peaceful.
Hakeem: The menace of Boko Haram actually started in 2009 when the group had a clash with state security agencies.
Wale: In the clashes, the Nigerian government killed an estimated 800 Boko Haram members including the leader, Mohammed Yusuf. Following the attack, the group retaliated under its new leader Abubakar Shekau, by launching an insurgency campaign against the Nigerian state.
Hakeem: They started by targeting security officials or anything that has a semblance or has a figure of the state.
Wale: But soon the group shifted its focus to target civilians.
Hakeem: Later they were seeking means to gain international attention. So they moved towards attacking civilians because they are actually the vulnerable groups in the society. Now civilians constitute one of their major targets.
Wale: And gradually, Boko Haram militants began targeting children.
Hakeem: They started by going to dormitories, boarding houses, schools to attack the children. They were used by suicide bombers then. And if you look at the gender dimensions their penchant to go after girls. They also use them as domestic slaves to work for them in their camps. They use them as sex slaves. They rape them.
Wale: Eventually, Boko Haram garnered international attention in 2014 when it kidnapped 276 girls in Borno State in a place called Chibok.
Hakeem: The group was relatively unknown before their kidnap of the Chibok girls. And immediately after the kidnap, there was this global campaign for the release of the children, the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.
Wale: High-profile politicians and celebrities, including then-first lady, Michelle Obama, came forward posting pictures of themselves on social media, holding up banners that said “Bring Back Our Girls”.
International efforts to rescue the girls involved the intervention of the human security division of the Swiss government’s foreign ministry and the Red Cross. Between 2016 and 2021 some 100 of the Chibok girls were freed in exchange for about US$3.7 million in ransoms. Of the remaining 176, some have escaped or died, and at least 100 girls are still believed to be living in Boko Haram’s captivity.
Hakeem says, it was this reaction from the international community that led Boko Haram to kidnap the girls in the first place.
Hakeem: So that itself popularised the group. And besides that, they can also use that to negotiate for some ransom in order to fund their operations. So these are some of the reasons why children are very strategic to their activities.
Wale: There are other reasons why Boko Haram continues to kidnap children.
Hakeem: They use the children to negotiate during conflict, for the release of their members that have been in prisons. Because of the emotional aspect of children, they feel the government would easily listen to them.
Wale: But Boko Haram is just one of many insurgent groups in Nigeria. Across the country, conflict and armed groups are threatening the lives of Nigerians, such as the conflict in the west, between Fulani herdsmen and Yoruba farmers.
And security issues are not confined to the north-east of the country. Bandits and other armed groups, like the Islamic State in West Africa, have begun doing copycat kidnappings in the north-west of the country, most recently in Zamfara state when 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped and released a few days later in early March.
Earlier this month, in April, a prison in Nigeria’s southeast in the town of Owerri, was attacked by members of a new armed insurrection. The gunmen share no affiliation or ideological interest with Boko Haram. Whether it’s Boko Haram or other insurgent groups, this all points to a much larger question around security in Nigeria.
To understand more about what the government has been doing – or hasn’t been doing – I reached out to Samuel Okunade.
Samuel Okunade: The state of insecurity in Nigeria is rife. Currently there’s still killings, banditry and of course kidnapping.
Wale: Samuel is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, where he researches the goevrnment’s response to the attacks by Boko Haram and how communities in the north-east of Nigeria have dealt with the conflict.
Samuel: The constant attacks being carried out by the insurgent group, built my curiosity to finding out the coping strategies which they’ve been able to evolve over the years to ensure their continued survival within those communities.
Wale: Samuel’s research focuses on communities living near Nigeria’s borders.
Samuel: We can also call this places borderlands. So these are, these are communities that you find on the borders between two independent states. And when you look at the way Boko Haram carry out their attacks at times, they live in, in some communities on the other side of the border. So they come into these communities at will to carry out their attacks, burn down houses, kill people, kidnap people.
Wale: As part of his work, Samuel focused on six border communities in 2017 and 2018, in the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, where he looked at the Nigerian military’s response to the attacks by Boko Haram.
Samuel: I discovered that the Nigerian government, which is supposed to be the major player, the key stakeholder, has failed in its responsibility of combating the menace of the Boko Haram within that region and within the country at large. And that’s why the Boko Haram still continue to grow in leaps and bounds til date and they still continue to carry out attacks within the region. And gradually the attention is shifting to the bandits in the north-western part of Nigeria.
Wale: Samuel says this all points to the fact that there is a high rate of insecurity in Nigeria.
Samuel: And it’s not just the Boko Haram element now. It has peeled to the southern part of Nigeria. When we look away from the north-eastern region of Nigeria and we look into the north-western part, a lot of people have lost their lives to banditry, kidnappings, clashes between the farmers and the herders within that region.
Wale: But by far the biggest security threat continues to be Boko Haram. Until 2010 the Nigerian government had largely ignored the security conditions in north-east Nigeria.
Samuel: The Nigerian government was forced, was pushed, to respond. And this only happened when the United States blacklisted the Nigerian state for terrorism in January 2010.
Wale: Samuel is referring here to the use of a directive issued by the US Department of Homeland Security in 2010, which placed Nigeria on the US terror watch list alongside other so-called “countries of interest”. The measure effectively meant that citizens from countries including Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, who travelled to the US were subjected to enhanced background checks and interrogation techniques at US airports.
As a result of the blacklisting, a diplomatic row ensued: Nigeria’s (then) minister of information, Professor Dora Akunyili, described the move as “unfair” and discriminatory, while foreign affairs minister then, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, said: “The new security measures by the US targeted at Nigerians is an unacceptable new year gift.”
But Samuel says, it was this designation of Nigeria as a country of interest that eventually spurred the government in Abuja into action the year after.
Samuel: They decided to work on an anti-terrorism legislation and that was what led to the Terrorism Prevention Act, which was signed into law in June 2011. Shortly after, the president then decided to form a special joint task force called JTF to respond. At the initial stages was composed of 30,000 troops and they were mobilised into the north-eastern state, especially the troubled areas to combat the attacks of the Boko Haram.
Wale: The Joint Task Force, made up of both members of the military and the Nigerian Police Force, coordinates intelligence and supports the Nigerian security forces in the fight against insurgents. While initially focusing mainly on localised counterinsurgency campaigns, its remit has expanded progressively over the years. In addition to armed protection of communities under attack by Boko Haram, members of the Joint Task Force have more recently been tasked with providing security to displaced populations living in camps for internally displaced people. But Samuel says much of the current strategy depends on regional and international support.
Samuel: At a point they got support from within Africa and from beyond. They got support for training, they got intelligence support. And they were also supported in terms of arms and ammunition, which are donated to them by various countries of the world. And some of them, even sent down troops to support in the fight against the Boko Haram.
Wale: But the government’s strategy wasn’t working.
Samuel: The Boko Haram still continued to grow and they still continue to carry out attacks within that region. The lackadaisical attitude being shown towards the fight against insurgency as impeded, or has prevented, the Nigerian government from successfully fighting the menace of insurgency within the region.
Wale: He says this is because the Joint Task Force is often overpowered by the insurgents, who carry superior arms and use guerrilla tactics in their attacks.
Samuel: The government has failed to adequately coordinate these huge resources is available to them to be able to fight and combat the Boko Haram menace. When you look at the reality, the kind of weapon, the military or the JTF carry is far, far, far less than what the force they are fighting is carrying.
Wale: Part of the reason the government has been unable to coordinate an effective response, Samuel says, is widespread corruption.
Samuel: Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian state. And that is the reason why they were earmarked so much money to purchase arms and ammunition and then at the end of the day, you discover that nothing as been purchased in the fight against this insurgency.
Wale: As a result of the corruption, many Nigerian soldiers have had to survive on meagre or often unpaid salaries.
Samuel: They’re being treated like slaves in their own country. And that’s the situation of the soldiers. We don’t have basic things to keep us going. And what are those basic things: water, food. It’s so alarming that things like that people who are risking their lives for their country would lack this kind of things. So if they lack food, if they lack of water, then we won’t be surprised that they would lack the needed firearm to combat the Boko Haram within that region.
Wale: Another part of the problem is that the Joint Task Force has allegedly engaged in unlawful killings, arrests, extortion and intimidation.
Samuel: They’ve been killing the local people indiscriminately, especially the youth and the men. And as a result of that, the people have lost trust in them.
And we can see how the fight against insurgency within that region as dragged up til date to a point in which we now have another group in the north-west coming up now and carrying out kidnappings and all that.
Wale: In the interviews Samuel conducted for his research with people living in the border communities, he found that many had felt neglected by the government, leaving them to fend for themselves.
Samuel: There is this lady she’s called Aisha Bakari Gombi. She’s leading a force in Borno State, to counter the attacks of the Boko Haram in some of the border communities to see to the release of kidnapped children, women, by the Boko Haram. Today, we can see that some of them can happily to return to their farms, to live in those communities again, although they still have to be very conscious of their environment when they move around, because it’s still pretty dangerous for them.
Wale: Hakeem Onapajo told me that the issue goes beyond the government’s failure to protect its population, but that in some cases the state is complicit in using children.
Hakeem: The state supported militia group, that’s the CJT, the Civilian Joint Task Force, both of them are using children to fight in that particular region. So according to UN estimates, for example, about 8,000 children, are presently child soldiers in that region.
Wale: I asked Hakeem what he thought the government’s strategy should be to protect communities from attacks against insurgents and to stop more children from being kidnapped.
Hakeem: Number one, government has to have a new approach towards addressing the insecurity in the country. You know, it’s abhorrent that the approach has not been working. Security in the country, especially in that region, there should be much more commitment to international collaborations in addressing the problem of that area. There should be much more provision of the needed equipment for the soldiers to fight this particular group. And also they should be much more focused on the non-military approaches towards addressing the problem. You know, there are root causes behind the reign of terror in that region. I think much more focus should be on how to try to introduce programme that will prevent the easy recruitment and attacks of children in that region.
Wale: And he says the government needs to start prioritising children.
Hakeem: When I wrote my article someone commented that why should we be talking about child security? Why not talk about general security? But the answer to that is that, children have some of their peculiar interest and children are much more vulnerable. So the government must find a way to provide special security at places where children are actually located in schools, in IDP camps, in their homes.
Wale: Samuel warned that, unless the government rebuilds the trust with communities living in the shadow of Boko Haram, these communities will find other solutions to keep themselves safe.
Samuel: So one of the coping strategies, which I found out in some of the communities, many of them are going into alliance with the Boko Haram in terms of negotiation for security. And every month they give out groceries to them, they give out whatever the agreement is in exchange for security. When the lives of your citizens are not being protected, then people will lose trust in your government. And that’s exactly what we are witnessing presently in Nigeria. So the Nigerian state has to stand up to its responsibility of protecting lives and properties of the people.
Gemma: Thank you, Wale, for digging into the history of all that and how complex it is and how big a task it is for the government to really protect these communities. It sounds like it’s a real challenge.
Wale: Seriously, the government, must up its game in responding to all these attacks.
Gemma: Our listeners can read more from Hakeem Onapajo and Samuel Okunade about their research in some articles that they’ve written for The Conversation, which we’re going to be putting links to in our show notes.
Wale: And they can find out more about banditry in Nigeria and the young people being drawn into it, in a recent interview I did with Sheriff Folarin at Covenant University for our podcast Pasha. The link is in the shownotes too.
Gemma: Do go listen everyone to Pasha, it’s a great show.
Wale: And now we are crossing the continent from west to east for our second story today to hear about some new research in Kenya about another Islamist group – Al-Shabaab.
Gemma: Al-Shabaab is a militant group based in Somalia where it’s in a kind of violent stalemate with the Somali government and a coalition of foreign peacekeeping troops. From its bases in Somalia, Al-Shabaab continues to recruit people from the coastal region of neighbouring Kenya, including women. To find out more about these women, and the complex dynamics surrounding their involvement in Al-Shabaab, I called up Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen in Mombasa to talk about the interviews that she’s been doing with some of these women.
Fathima: I’m Fathima Azmiya. I work at the Department of Social Sciences, Technical University of Mombasa in Kenya. My study focuses on, recruitment of women and girls into extremist networks, such as the Al-Shabaab.
Gemma: And where am I speaking to you from today?
Fathima: From Kenya, I’m based in Mombasa.
Gemma: Can you explain to our listeners who are Al-Shabaab and what is their kind of goal and what do they want as an organisation?
Fathima: Al-Shabaab are a transnational terrorist network. The origin is in Somalia, it’s mainly a Somali-based militant, I could say insurgency group. And it spreads its influence in most of the east African regions and even beyond. So ideology is mainly to have a caliphate in the east African region. The primary areas of operation are Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Tanzania, Uganda, even today to a level like Mozambique.
Gemma: We’re talking in March 2021 and Al-Shabaab has been in existence since the early 2000s. How much territory does it have? And what’s the kind of balance of power between it and the Somali government?
Fathima: They have their bases. Today, too, we have particular, we call it a sort of a transition government, but still Al-Shabaab becomes very strong in the southern areas, mainly because of its tax bases, their control.
Gemma: OK, so they’re more powerful along the southern part of Somalia, which is actually bordering Kenya. Your research has focused on coastal Kenya and kind of the northern bit of Kenya will work going down towards Mombasa, which is in the south of the country. Can you explain to me what kind of the dynamics are this area that you research?
Fathima: So, my study is based on the coastal region of Kenya. This includes areas like Lamu, Kwale, Mombasa, Kilifi. Kenya becomes a conducive ground for recruitment from this transnational extremist movement due to the prevailing pockets of marginalised communities and also deprived situations. The broken state-citizen relationships, youth unemployment and also some underdeveloped areas. But today the trends are changing from what it was before. So it’s not only the coast, but we also have other areas which are vulnerable for radicalisation and recruitment.
Gemma: And your focus has been predominantly on women being recruited into the Al-Shabaab. Can you explain why is Al-Shabaab trying to recruit women?
Fathima: So like many other terrorist organisations or insurgency networks, Al-Shabaab also uses women, and girls. This is not something very new, but the main reason why Al-Shabaab had this trend emanating is because of women’s important roles and the need for their role in tactical operations. Like for example, when the surveillance increased on men, actually, the trend was to have women now to carry out these activities so that they can bypass these surveillance. Women are more often looked from a passive view of not being violent. So when they carry out activities, it’s a shocking thing.
And also women and girls can perform many activities in their traditional roles, and at the same time, as in the combatant roles, like in the camps, they can be cleaning, cooking, they can be combatants also. They can also be sent to Kenya to gather information or to find certain things. They play a very important role in logistics support, like hiding members in their houses or weapons. They also become important in fundraising efforts, to recruit other women and men mainly because of their social interaction skills and their are pivotal positioning in families and the community. So women play a very important role in those countries.
Gemma: Could you explain a bit about how you go about this research?
Fathima: It was really important for me to understand the person from their own cultural context. So I started with the observing terror suspect trials. And I used to go and talk to the parents, then ask for permission. Some would give, some won’t give you. Once you get a start-up interview, you don’t directly ask questions,
you just build a trust until the person itself feels like they are ready to talk to you. And I had to stay long periods of time in these communities, so that I understand their perspective better.
Gemma: So you’ve built up this group of around 36 women that you’ve interviewed and you’ve written a number of academic papers about them. But your most recent paper has focused on women who joined Al-Shabaab voluntarily. Can you explain what is the difference between a voluntary and involuntary reason for joining?
Fathima: When you look into voluntary recruitment, I look into it as women who join out of their sheer will. So this can be based because they like the Al-Shabaab ideology. Or sometimes we have even women who go because of group belongingness that you feel, like it is a Muslim group. You have to be part of it, or you have joined with a friend. So those are mainly the voluntary aspect. Then you have the involuntary recruitment. That is when women and girls are forced to join these networks. Or those who join the groups are joining because of particular receptive, or elimination strategies used by the Al-Shabaab network.
Gemma: You had these 36 women, and then you picked up 16 of them who you can categorise as women who’d voluntarily joined the group. Can you explain what the main factors were for those women?
Fathima: When I made the selection of these 16, those are the women who I’m mainly inclined on building a caliphate. They were the ones who were completely, resonating with the ideology of the Al-Shabaab. They are very minority, but they play a very important role because they have prominent positions in the network because of their ideological resonance.
Then you have another group that might join because of particular anger involved, like maybe they want to get revenge from the state. So because you are not strong as an individual, now you feel like joining the Al-Shabaab as a revenge motive. Then you have the third one, which I consider as the majority.
So the third one is mainly in line with the circumstances based on their daily interactions with the family or the peers. Now, these relationships are very important because as woman growing up in a patriarchal setting, maybe in particular dependency relationships, like you’re dependent on your husband or a male relative, or it can be the aspect of she’s really in love with him so she doesn’t want to lose him or maybe because she’s scared. She may not have a man. And you know, it also comes back to the economics, with children. So sometimes, you make your decision based on these dependency relationships. It seems like you’re volunteering, but it has been shaped because of your family, your circumstances or you want to be your obedient wife. So that is mainly the majority.
And then you have the fourth one, which is mainly focused on the camp. That is your voluntariness was based on the time you spent in the camp, the ideological trainings you underwent in the camp. Maybe you join involuntarily, but because of the ideological training that has been constantly given to you in the camp, now you have the voluntariness based on trainings you undergo.
Gemma: And I wonder what significance your findings have for Kenya in particular, the counter-terrorism strategies and policies that the government is trying to put in place.
Fathima: I would say the study would be more significant in preventing and countering violent extremism. Because the study tries to understand and place the role of women in radicalisation and recruitment. First, we should acknowledge there is problem. Second, and you look into the topic of women in deradicalisation, or disengaging or re-integration, it’s important to have this gendered angle, because what fits men may not fit women. Then what measures can we take when you’re trying to prevent women from getting into these networks, whether it is voluntary or involuntary.
Then also when it comes to voluntary, mainly with ideology, how can we respond to this ideological tenants that facilitate a voluntary recruitment? Like for example, misinterpreted Quranic verses. So those are some of the discussions we need with these young women, girls so that they understand before they make a decision. So it comes back into this life skills, critical thinking, decision-making type of interventions that are needed.
Gemma: Just finally, what are you working on next? Are you still interviewing these women or are you moving to, to look at other issues with Al-Shabaab?
Fathima: I’m still working with these women, mainly in line with the reintegration processes. But I’m also working on, the topic of boys. That is the topic of masculinities, radicalisation and recruitment with boys and men to whether recruitment pathways are changing and whether trends are different for men and women.
Gemma: OK. Well, we’ll look forward to reading about that in the future. Thank you very much, Fatima. It’s been fascinating talking to you.
Fathima: Thank you too for having me.
Gemma: You can read an article by Fatima with more details about her research by clicking the link in the show notes.
Wale: And now to end the show, we’ve got a message from Bryan Keogh, business editor at The Conversation in the US.
Bryan: Hi, I’m Brian Keogh, a senior economy and business editor for The Conversation based in New York. My first recommendation is on the controversial topic of vaccine mandates. A lot of companies have considered requiring their workers to get vaccinated as they try to get everyone back to the office.
This has prompted some US states try to prevent this. Liz Tippett, an employment law expert at the University of Oregon has an interesting take on this debate. Employers don’t need to worry about mandating vaccines because they already have plenty of other tools to compel compliance from their employees. As Liz explains, companies have gotten so good at manipulating our behaviours through various types of nudges, that your boss probably won’t even need a mandate to get you to take a shot.
My second recommendation comes from Clare Mehta, a psychologist at Emmanuel College. A recent survey asked if you could be one age for the rest of your life, what would it be? The surprising answer was 36 and disappointing for me since it suggests I’m already past my prime. It wasn’t to Clare, however, who has been studying the experiences of people in the thirties and early forties. It’s an interesting time in a person’s life. So much tends to be happening from buying a home for the first time to getting married, having children to beginning to really own one’s career. Her research found that though these big changes and challenges brought a lot of stress, they also brought a lot of joy, too. People also said they were feeling more self-confident and generally happier. Unfortunately, Clare didn’t learn when everything goes downhill. That’s all for me. Thanks and happy reading.
Gemma: Brian Keogh in New York there. That’s it for this week. Thanks to all the academics who’ve spoken to us for this episode.
Wale: And many thanks to the Conversation editors Adejuwon Soyinka, Caroline Southey, Julius Maina, Bryan Keogh and Stephen Khan for their help with this episode.
Gemma: And thanks to Alice Mason, Imriel Morgan and Sharai White for our social media promotion.
Wale: If you want to learn more about any of the things we talk about on the show today, there are links to further reading in the shownotes where you can also find a link to sign up to our free daily email.
Gemma: The Conversation Weekly is co-produced by Mend Mariwany and me, Gemma Ware, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl.
Wale: And I’m Wale Fatade from Lagos, Nigeria. Thanks for listening.