DIgital Public Defence: Maren Olene Kloster

Mphil Maren Olene Kloster at Institute of Health and Society will be defending the thesis Navigating a contested field. Reproductive health and NGO practices in Malawi for the degree of PhD (Philosophiae Doctor).

Image may contain: Person, Forehead, Nose, Smile, Eyelash.

Photo: Hilde Holsten.

The public defence will be held as a video conference over Zoom.

The defence will follow regular procedure as far as possible, hence it will be open to the public and the audience can ask ex auditorio questions when invited to do so.

Click here to participate in the public defence

Download Zoom here

Due to copyright reasons, an electronic copy of the thesis must be ordered from the faculty. In order for the faculty to have time to process the order, it must be received by the faculty no later than 2 days prior to the public defence. Orders received later than 2 days before the defence will not be processed. Inquiries regarding the thesis after the public defence must be addressed to the candidate.

Digital Trial Lecture – time and place

See Digital Trial Lecture.

Adjudication committee

  • First opponent: Professor Astrid Blystad, University of Bergen
  • Second opponent: Independent consultant Dr. Øyvind Eggen,
  • Third member and chair of the evaluation committee: Associate Professor Anne Kveim Lie, University of Oslo

Chair of the Defence

Professor Kari Nyheim Solbrække, University of Oslo

Principal Supervisor

Professor Sidsel Roalkvam, University of Oslo


International non-governmental organisations (INGOs) play an increasingly prominent role in global health. They serve as global health advocates, participants in global health policy development, partners, and implementers of donor projects and programmes. To international health donors, INGOs are popular actors to work with. This thesis examines how INGOs navigate the aid chain and negotiate reproductive health policy and norms in a field that is politicised and tense.

Based on 9 months fieldwork in Malawi, as well as in Norway and at international meetings and conferences, the thesis focuses on two international NGOs and their projects in Malawi. One project aimed to improve maternal health by reducing teenage pregnancies through interventions designed to keep girls in school and the other aimed to influence the reproductive health policy environment. The thesis explores how international NGOs manoeuvre strategically in the global landscape of institutions, financial flows, discourses, and practices that constitute the fields of ‘international development’ and global health.

The thesis defines three broader shifts that to a large extent shape what INGOs can be and do. These shifts entail (1) the move from an understanding of health as a political issue to a technical issue, which makes INGOs operate in what appears as a deeply depoliticised field; (2) an increased focus on individual people detached from the society in which they ‘grow up, live, work and die’; and lastly (3) the value of what INGOs do is now spelled out in terms of the number of individuals reached rather than the need to challenge structural issues of ‘representation’, power and inequality .

This study shows how the INGOs studied struggle with navigating a landscape conceptualised as technical but simultaneously highly tense and politicised. Within the bifurcated field of reproductive health, INGOs and their staff have to negotiate meaning and legitimacy for their organisations and for their political projects towards differently situated audiences (e.g. the state, other NGOs). A better understanding of these practices, and how legitimacy is negotiated, is crucial to understanding how INGOs manoeuvre in the global flow of reproductive health policy, knowledge, and norms.

Additional information

Contact the research support staff.

Published Apr. 9, 2021 12:17 PM - Last modified Apr. 27, 2021 9:36 AM