Deborah Tolman, qualitative researcher and gender expert

Deborah Tolman, EdD, has over twenty years of experience in qualitative research on gender and adolescent sexuality. She has an EdD in applied developmental psychology from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University, a Masters’ degree in sexuality education from the University of Pennsylvania and an AB degree from Harvard College. She was trained in and has contributed to scholarship on feminist perspectives on female and male adolescent development and adolescent sexuality, as well as social psychological perspectives on gender, adolescence and sexuality.  In particular, as a doctoral student, she worked with Dr. Carol Gilligan, a prominent developmental psychologist whose work on reframing morality to include care as well as justice concerns, brought girls’ experiences to the attention of psychology.  Tolman was part of the team that developed a special way to analyze narrative interviews that focuses on preserving the actual words and expressions of how participants convey their experiences and how they use “discourses,” socially condoned practices, expressions and thoughts and feelings, to convey and understand their experiences. She has adapted this method of interviewing and analysis specifically for sexuality research. Tolman has studied adolescent girls’ experiences of sexual desire (aged 15-17), primarily using narratives elicited through individual interviews and analyses of those narratives to understand how girls experience themselves, their bodies, their identities and how they navigate heterosexual and same-sex sexual encounters and relationships.  She has conducted studies of teen boys and girls’ experiences of heterosexual relationships with a focus on how their beliefs about gender shape and inform their interactions and experiences, in particular, how traditional gender beliefs are “audible” in the reproduction of gender inequities in relationships. She is currently beginning new research on how self-sexualization is related to and part of how girls and young women are able to engage in healthy sexual decisions and have experiences in which they feel entitled to their own bodies.



Rebecka Lundgren, qualitative researcher

Dr. Rebecka Lundgren is the Director of Research for the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University Medical Center. Rebecka has an MPH from UCLA and is currently completing her PhD in Applied Anthropology at the University of Maryland. She has over 20 years of comprehensive, hands-on experience in the design, implementation, management, and evaluation of sustainable reproductive health and behavior change programs, with particular interest in addressing gender issues and engaging men in reproductive health and family. Prior to joining IRH, she worked for the Population Council in Honduras where she conducted operations research and provided technical assistance to strengthen family planning services, especially in rural areas. As an applied anthropologist, she has expertise applying qualitative and ethnographic methods to her work, and has developed innovative mixed method approaches to evaluate fertility awareness and gender transformation programmes for very young adolescents. She is one of very few global experts in Very Young Adolescents, and one of a handful with qualitative research methods expertise in this area. Over the past five years Rebecka has conducted numerous studies with this age group, encompassing formative research, intervention pilot studies and evaluations. She led development and testing of the My Changing Body Curriculum in India, Guatemala, and Rwanda, evaluation of CHOICES in Nepal and research on CycleSmart, a puberty education and menstrual hygiene intervention in Guatemala and Rwanda. She is the Principal Investigator of the USAID-funded GREAT Project (Gender Roles, Equality and Transformation) a six-year project aiming to facilitate the formation of gender equitable gender norms, prevent gender-based violence and lay the foundation for future sexual health among 10-18 year olds in Northern Uganda.


Marni Sommer, qualitative researcher

Dr. Sommer is an Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University.  She has a DrPH from Columbia University, and an MSN/MPH from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.  Dr. Sommer's area of expertise includes the conduct of qualitative and participatory methodologies with adolescents, and exploring transitions into puberty and young adulthood among young people.  More specifically Dr. Sommer focuses on adolescent health, gender, sexuality, and the intersections of public health and education for young people in low- and middle-income countries in particular.  Her research has included an in-depth comparative case study exploring girls’ experiences of menstruation, puberty and education in Tanzania; followed by an NIH funded project in Tanzania that explored adolescent boys’ gendered socialization during the pubertal transition and its implications for subsequent vulnerability to HIV and other STIs, and engagement in other risky behaviors (such as substance abuse and violence). The prior research with girls and current research with boys highlighted the potential role of alcohol use by boys (and possibly girls) in increasing their engagement in risky sexual behavior, and risk of infection with HIV, which will be the focus of Dr. Sommer's next research project in Tanzania.  The findings from the girls’ research have been channeled into the development of a successful puberty book for girls in Tanzania, one that has been adapted by the Ministry of Education in Tanzania, with other findings incorporated into the government's new water and sanitation strategy for schools (addressing adolescent girls’ menstrual hygiene management needs).  The findings from the boys' research have also been incorporated into a boys' puberty book for Tanzania that is currently awaiting approval from the Ministry of Education.  Dr. Sommer has also led research in three countries (Ghana, Cambodia, Ethiopia) on girls' experiences of menstruation and schooling, which have resulted in the development of girl's puberty books in each new country with the approval of each country's respective Ministry of Education for the books.  Dr. Sommer is also the Global Health Certificate lead for the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, and is the Executive Editor of the journal Global Public Health.