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Building Feminist power through evidence

Written by Rita Safari

The WREPA Global Advisor, Hendrica Okondo and I attended the Building Feminist power through evidence meeting at the Ngong Hills Hotel in Nairobi. This meeting had been organized by IDinsight and FEMNET. The meeting kicked off with Tom Wein introducing IDinsight and the work it does. IDinsight helps development leaders use data and evidence to improve their social impact using a wide range of data and evidence tools, including randomized evaluations, monitoring services and machine learning to help decision makers design effective programs and rigorously test what works to support communities.

Feminist organizations need evidence in their day-to-day decision-making. The Women’s Empowerment Index 2020 showed that Women empowerment was at 40% for urban women and 20% for rural women. The Community Empowerment Programme was built through careful iterative learning, and increases perceived harmony between men and women, but can vary by age, current wealth, geography, type of intervention and details of implementation. Change is possible; the world is moving, and even if it is not happening right now, we must not abandon the field.

We saw how the following two feminist organizations are incorporating evidence in their decision-making.

Raising Voices:

Raising Voices creates evidence-based violence prevention programmes informed by the everyday realities of schools and communities. The organization considers learning something everyone should be part of, rather than an isolated activity. They see learning as broad not just limited to collecting information, but also making it accessible to others and integrating it to programming. They are focusing on creating an organizational learning culture where different teams can learn from each other.

Mawazo Institute

This is a women-led African organization supporting early-career women researchers as they work to find local solutions to global development challenges. Mawazo institute supports the next generation of African researchers and the uptake of not only home grown but evidence based solutions to pressing development needs.

Participatory Action Research

Wangui Kimari of Mathare Social Justice Centre took us through Participatory Action Research. Why Participatory Action Research? The steps in a Participatory Action Research are:

  • Launch

  • Understand

  • Explore

  • Decide

  • Act/Inaugurate

The Principles of Participatory Action Research are:

  • It amplifies women’s voices

  • It should be owned by the community

  • Its impact has a life beyond the report

The major challenges of Participatory Action Research are that it can make you a target, the goal is to make sure you are sustainable which is not easy. The minor challenges are that it takes a long time; a fully horizontal process is impossible; inclusion can be expensive. Some questions to consider when undertaking Participatory Action Research are:

  • Is the topic a priority for the community?

  • Is everyone who needs to be included, included?

  • Is inclusion substantive?

  • Has everyone participated and had their knowledge rated?

  • What language are you talking?

  • Is the action agreed upon sustainable?

  • Will it be community owned?

  • Is there trust in it?

Constant reflection is important for Participatory Action Research.

We then proceeded to small group discussions to discuss the following topics:

  1. Theory of Change

  2. Qualitative Research

  3. Literature Review

The highlights were as follows:

Theory of Change represents how a program will use resources to conduct activities that can lead to changes in behavior and improvements in people’s lives. It encourages critical, creative and empathetic thinking on how the world works and how programs may work or fail to work. It is the blueprint that guides the evidence-generation tools use.

Literature Review also known as Evidence Review is a critical review of secondary sources related to a program, showing what information is available about the problems being addressed and the program design. It helps build on top of programs with a proven track record of effectiveness, leverage existing resources and avoid that have been proven ineffective. It can also strengthen the Theory of Change by showing reasonable assumptions given the existing evidence base.

Qualitative Research involves collecting and analyzing non-numerical data to understand concepts, opinions or experiences. It starts with a purpose that is open ended. The following are the methods that can be used:

  • Focus Groups

  • Observation

  • Interviews

  • Surveys with open ended questions

The methods you choose will depend your goals. Program evaluations often use quantitative methods to estimate a program’s effectiveness through decision focused evaluations. Qualitative tools help broaden the understanding and clarify the mechanisms involved in a project change.

To close the meeting, IDinsigt informed us that they were looking to partner with feminist and women’s rights organizations to support them build a culture of evidence. This engagement will be for 6 months at no cost to the selected partner. IDinsight would work with the selected organization to understand their data needs, and to explore ways to better their access and use of evidence in their work. The possible areas of support would be co-created by IDinsight and the selected partner and might include skills training, mentoring, joint conduct of a small study, and flexible advice and support on the partner’s evidence priorities. WREPA applied for this partnership and is waiting for the response.

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