An AmplifyChange Supported Project of CIRDDOC in collaboration with CENGOS
The following key lessons have emerged from this project:
Research on SRHR
- Researchers need to be bold, composed, respectful and sensitive to the environment as well as the person when approaching prospective respondents on issues of SRHR because the issue is shrouded in silence and shame. The Researcher must therefore never be judgmental but rather empathetic in a manner that is not insulting to the respondent.
- FGDs proved to be a better strategy for extracting information on sensitive issues like SRH as participants are more relaxed and open to discussion, especially when the questions are not personalised. Discussing such issues in the third person thus provide a safe space for people to speak about their own experiences and such discussions could lead to people speaking about themselves openly once they feel comfortable with the situation.
- Researchers on SRHR should always have information about referral services where they can refer people who need such services during field work
- To gain access to and cooperation of government institutions and their officials, the researcher must respect the chain of authority. For instance, in working with the Police, the right place to start engaging at state level is with the State commissioner of Police and at the Federal level with the Inspector Gender of Police. Always seek clearance from the highest ranking official in any institution.
- Use of community mobilisers (familiar faces) to mobilizing respondents or participants is very effective as respondents feel more relaxed and comfortable working with them. However, care must be taken to ask such community mobilizers to leave the conversion when issues become too sensitive to protect respondents.
- There is a high percentage of young people who are very enlightened on SRHR. Some of whom are open to candid discussions on sexuality issues and engage with a high level of maturity. Researchers and advocates therefore should engage with young people with a willingness to learn and share knowledge with them on SRHR in a manner that corrects wrong conceptions/opinions by young people
Navigating faith and religious terrains
- Empowering the traditional leaders and community groups on why they should be involved in the issues of SRHR clearly pointing out its negative impact on their communities is a key entry point. This serves to clear the limiting perceptions on issues of SRHR as well as break the silence around the issues and thus enable this constituency to be involved in the demand for policy change or legal reform from an informed position
- Inhibitions arising from cultural norms on discussions on SRHR should be carefully handled and explained to rural communities as this will first break the ice, paving way for advocates to further educate them on the negative impact of the silence around SRHR as well as practices in the community and how a change of norms would be beneficiary to the community. Building new social norms in a community on SRHR therefore is a gradual drawn out process that must be underpinned by a clear understanding and acceptance of the destructive nature of current practices. The advocate must find new wholesome and healthy practices or ceremonies to replace old negative ones in the quest to create new norms
- Improving the economic status of rural people will improve their access to health services and information and perhaps go a long way to enabling them to create new norms around SRHR issues.
Gender and SRHR
- Men are more inclined to discussing SRH issues with fellow men. Men felt embarrassed being interviewed by women on sex related issues. Women also felt safer discussing these issues with women. Care therefore needs to be taken in assigning researchers in SRHR to ensure that interviewers themselves are part of the safe space for such discussions. Women interview women, men interview men. Furthermore, this arrangement makes it easier for survivors of violence to share their experiences once confidence is established
- There remains a strong and veiled resistance to gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment by the society which clearly manifest when there is advocacy seeking structural and legal environments that will enable the institutionalization of gender equality. The concept of “Equality” for both men and women has been revealed to be a quietly acknowledged threat to patriarchy
Navigating the policy making terrain
- Politicizing policy change/legal reform process in the direction of the ruling political party, which usually has the majority representation in the legislative is a proven strategy that gets large support for a cause
- Engaging in legislative advocacy during election period can be futile but it can also be used to advantage by using the demand as a bargaining chip for election or re-election of the serving legislators
- The internal dynamics within the legislative chambers are critical to the survival or otherwise of policy change or legal reform. It is important to study and understand the political climate before asking a legislature to sponsor your bill or policy initiate. The support for you proposed policy or law by any legislator who is labelled ‘enemy’ or ‘hated’ is a sure guarantee that the opposition groups in the legislature will kill the idea.
- Policy change and legislative advocacy is a dynamic process with the variables impacting it continually changing. The advocate must therefore understand the internal dynamics of the legislature and be committed to staying the course patiently no matter the number of setbacks. Legislative advocacy is a slow process but eventual pays off;
Engaging with a broad base of stakeholders
- Networking and partnering with relevant organisations and institutions like the traditional rulers, the media, and legislative staff creates a multi-stakeholder platform for advocacy thus leading to greater participation and synergy. Whoever coordinates such networks must endeavour to maintain relationships with stakeholders through constant information sharing, which enables sustained interest and support for an agenda and in turn creates further openings and opportunities for more future engagements
- Partnering with the legislative staff is essential for understanding the workings of the legislature and the mindset of the legislators thus enabling the advocates to adopt practicable strategies for engagement
- Key to facilitating change is the ability to keep the issue on public discourse, providing current information on people’s lived experiences of GBV and SRHR such that public discussion on an issue is informed in a positive manner and not riddled with misinformation.
- Empowering influential stakeholders and community gatekeepers to champion the advocacy initiative is a panacea to gender-based violence (GBV).
- Ignorance is the underlying factor that perpetuates violation, abuse and denial of rights; information and awareness are essential to the realisation of a near violence free society
- Membership organisations should not totally rely on its members (who have their respective individual organisations to manage) for effective operation of the coalition, there is great need to hire personnel charged with specific responsibilities
- Regular project implementation review ensures focus and keeps the delivery team on track
- Incentivized competition encourages participation and stimulates learning
- Experience sharing and networking offer new perspectives and ideas to navigating challenges and achieving results
- Improving the capacity of project delivery team in turn improves output and facilitates the achievement of project outcome/goal
- Enhanced knowledge and information dispel myths, attract support and inspire action
- Partnership brews stronger force for increased service delivery and access to services.
- Creating space and opportunity for the application of knowledge and learning leads to innovation – creating real life situations with acquired knowledge and applying same to immediate environment