Getting real on leaving no one behind: Women’s periods and the SDGs in Nepal
BY Stine Heiselberg | April 19, 2018
Who are Nepal's most vulnerable groups, and how is their vulnerability similar or different from other countries?
This wasn't a rhetorical question for the Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project (CFP), an inter-agency initiative of the UN in Nepal, but a must-know in order to properly structure their priorities for the 2018-2022 UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Key in answering this question, was to get in touch directly with those vulnerable groups and to listen to their experiences.
To target the areas where there's a clear gap, we designed a community perception survey that would allow us to fully grasp why certain populations are falling behind in development progress, and most importantly, to help them catch up. We spoke with members of the UNDAF thematic groups from various UN agencies to develop a questionnaire that would also help us amplify existing data sources for future programming efforts.
As a next step, we selected districts by aggregating the Human Development Index (HDI) at the provincial level and identified the provinces with the lowest HDI. Then, we identified districts within those provinces and pulled the data that would reflect as many UNDAF-related areas as possible.
In October last year, we mobilized 30 enumerators across nine districts (Kailali, Achham, Bajura, Muhu, Dailekh, Rukum, Mahottari, Sarlahi, and Rautahat) over the course of two weeks. A total of 1,800 respondents completed the survey. To get our hands on qualitative data, we also held 12 focus group discussions in targeted communities facilitated by team members of the Common Feedback Project. This helped to contextualize quantitative findings and provide greater insight into the survey results.
Making sense of all the data
Once we collected the data, we put on our investigator hats to analyse results and disaggregate overall findings by district, age, gender, ethnicity and occupation. We did this to drill down and pinpoint factors that may influence how people in different regions are experiencing development.
By far, the most effective surveys were the ones administered and analysed without pre-existing bias or predictions, which is what we strived for. The final product was a 39-page infographic style report that breaks down the responses based on focus areas, including detailed analysis of the survey feedback.
Some UN agencies are already focusing more in detail on the results that impact their mandate which could guide their future work.
Debunking cultural misconceptions
One of the things that came up during the surveys is the practice of chhaupadi, through which women are banned from their homes, public areas, temples, and schools during their menstrual periods. According to our findings, this still remains a regular practice even though it was outlawed in 2017.
To contextualize these findings, we held focus group discussions to in Dailekh, a district where only half of the population is literate, and the Human Development Indicators are extremely low. From the focus group discussions, we learned that school teachers often ask female students to stay at home for four days during their periods.
This is a problem because school girls miss up to one fifth of the school year. Beyond this impact on education, the practice of chhaupadi has far reaching implications. A number of women die annually from animal bites, infections, and smoke inhalation as they stay in unsafe and unsanitary shacks during their period.
The good news is that some communities are beginning to understand that this ostracizing practice is damaging and unnecessary. And with collective efforts to raise awareness, this practice can be eliminated. In the western district of Mugu, chaupaddi is now considered a thing of the past, in part, due to the investments at the community level to teach people about the biological aspects of the menstrual cycle and the impacts of excluding women and girls from their communities. In several districts in Nepal, UNFPA and UNICEF are providing life skills education to girls and boys, both in and outside of school. A programme called Rupantaran (which means "transformation") empowers and enables adolescents to become change agents in their communities.
We are committed to giving communities a voice at the table from the very beginning of our planning efforts. The Common Feedback Project team will continue to support the UN team to integrate feedback from communities into their development plans. As part of this effort, we are currently designing a new community perceptions survey to better understand the dynamics of harmful traditional practices such as chaupaddi. The data collected will inform UN joint programmes to eradicate these practices. We will keep you posted on our findings. Check back with us in the next few months!
What 8000 Papua New Guineans have to say about sustainable development
BY Stephanie Laryea, Chika Kondoh | April 11, 2018
About 150 kilometres north of Australia lies the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. This young nation has over 1,000 distinct ethnic groups and more than 850 indigenous spoken languages. Of Papua New Guinea’s population of almost 8 million people, 80 percent still live in rural areas; and 90 percent of the provinces are only accessible by air or sea.
Due to underdeveloped infrastructure, it's difficult to reach out to citizens that live in dispersed areas. About 30 percent of the population doesn't have access to mass media. If we don't know what citizens think about their country or what they need, how can we expect them to actively participate in society?
Reaching people through SMS technology
In our quest to find ways to localize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Papua New Guinea and learn what citizens think, we came across an interesting detail: when Digicel, the largest mobile phone network provider entered Papua New Guinea’s telecommunications market in 2007, it single-handedly opened communications to the most remote areas of the country. Access to mobile phones spiked from 1.6 percent in 2006 to 50 percent in 2016.
Some of our colleagues at UN agencies are already using mobile phones to communicate with Papua New Guineans. In 2016, UNICEF launched U-Report in Papua New Guinea, a free social messaging tool that allows for anyone, from any community, to comment on the issues affecting them. UNICEF partnered with Digicel to carry out SMS-based communications to collect disaggregated data on a large-scale in a rapid, low-cost and interactive way.
Drawing on UNICEF's positive results, the UN team in Papua New Guinea sent an SMS blast to 103,466 randomly-selected Digicel subscribers to ask if they’d be willing participate in a Sustainable Development Goal survey. Around 8,043 people registered and received questions based on data gaps previously identified by the government during a period of 12 days.
What we learned from 8,000 people
With simple text messages, we collected disaggregated data from all 22 provinces, 89 districts, from women and men of all range groups in Papua New Guinea. Believe it or not, the oldest respondent was 79 years old! On average, 72 percent of the people who registered, answered our questions. The data collected suggests where interventions are required by the Government, the United Nations or other development partners. For example:
44 percent of women in the province of Milne Bay reported feeling safe on public transport, while only 16 percent of women in the country’s capital, Port Moresby, felt safe on public transport.
A staggering 90 percent had witnessed the effects of climate change in their local environment
3 out of 4 said they had been affected by a natural and/or man-made disaster in the past 12 months.
Disparities among provinces, age groups and gender, revealed that we need to shift from an aggregated approach based on macro data at the national level to a disaggregated intervention approach.
Papua New Guineans want to be actively involved in civic participation. We identified that youth are vital agents of change; 75 percent of the population is under 35 years old.
Harnessing the potential of Papua New Guinea’s youth and using their his to our advantage and using youth networks will be essential in advocating for the SDGs. The UN in Papua New Guinea’s ‘Youth Champion 4 SDGs’ have discussed the survey findings and have provided insights on potential reasons for the disparity seen in some of the survey results.
To view the survey results in a quick and easy way, our partners at Viz for Social Good, a social non-profit organization specialized in data visualization, did an amazing job visualizing the data.
Click here to see the data in Tableau. Author: Simon Beaumont
How we are using what we heard
Together with the national government, private sector, multilateral organizations, bilateral donors, NGOs, and academia, we held the country’s first-ever multi-sectoral data workshop to discuss data gaps and identify available data sources among the stakeholders present at the workshop. We shared the SMS survey findings and the platform during one of the sessions. We also categorized the disaggregated findings into the four outcome areas of the new United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2018-2022 and shared it with the program priority working groups.
Later this year, we will share our findings with the citizens of Papua New Guinea through mass media. Our plan is to use radio and newspapers to reach people living in rural areas and online/social media to target people living in the capital city. People will also be able to interact and share their concerns either by calling radio shows or using social media to discuss their views on key survey findings. With this, our hope is to raise public awareness on the status of the SDGs in Papua New Guinea.
Reflecting on the use of SMS and mobile phones, the UN Country Team in Papua New Guinea will delve deeper to gather more sets of disaggregated data to establish a statistical model that will help development actors better target their interventions. We will also look into mobile usage and demographic data, provided by Digicel, to build a platform of civic monitoring through SMS. This scaled-up project aims to push the agenda of area-based programming in the UN system as well as with relevant government departments, building on the findings that this SMS survey provided.
Watch this space for more!