Using vignettes for gender research

Gender research can be used to understand community perceptions of social and gender norms. To better understand these perceptions in the context of poultry intensification, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in collaboration with GALVmed, recently carried out a rapid gender landscaping analysis in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe using a unique method – the vignette. The landscaping analysis was designed to inform the gender context underpinning the PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow (PREVENT) project in these countries.

A fictitious story about a chicken-keeper named Amina is a tool for conversations about social norms

The vignette approach involves reading out a fictitious story involving a main protagonist in a focus group setting and leaving the end of the story blank for the group to comment on ‘what happens next’ as a tool for a conversation about social and gender norms. As the landscaping study was designed to understand community perceptions of women’s involvement in poultry intensification, the vignette in this study was of a chicken keeper named Amina, whose poultry business was flourishing. Amina’s husband approaches her and wants to discuss her business. Responses from the community as to what happened next ranged widely. The following are some examples:

Amina was talented in chicken keeping as she started before she was married and benefited from it. I believe her husband wanted to give her knowledge on the business as well as to congratulate her because what she does is beneficial to the family and the whole society.

– Woman in Tanzania.

There’s no mention on the story where Amina’s business takes a dwindling turn, but it is forever growing, which excites me a lot. So, when the husband wants to talk to Amina about her business, there’s an element of knowledge capacitation the husband wants to offer to her so the business grows to greater heights.

– Man in Zimbabwe.

Maybe the man is jealous she is doing better than him and not getting her attention and other men are eyeing her; she is getting more money. He might think maybe one day she will not be submissive to him. He is afraid.

– Woman in Nigeria.

Through the vignette, we were able to gather information about potential consequences from husbands, family members, and community members when a woman intensifies her poultry production at the expense of her care duties. This includes responsibilities to the family, children, community, or breaking social norms such as speaking to male customers at night. Such consequences include shaming, social ostracization, gossip, jealousy, marital conflict, possibly even domestic violence, or divorce. While support from a husband and family members can lead to growth of the business, as the husband becomes more involved, there is a question about whether women’s ability to control resources and benefits diminishes.

The results of this study raise some interesting questions for the PREVENT project and the gender consequences of poultry intensification. GALVmed will be using these findings to inform a gender intentional approach to understanding, tracking, and communicating the gendered effects of the project.

This blog was written by Katharine Tjasink and co-authored by Zoë Campbell (ILRI)

Learning lessons at GALVmed

The collection and analysis of data allow organisations to develop and implement impactful and evidence-based strategies. GALVmed’s Commercial Development and Impact Function is committed to a developmental approach to monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL), which means that we use rapid learning to improve a project programme or affirm the need for a change of course.

To be truly developmental, this learning needs to feed back in a systematic way into our organisation. How do we do that? We use a framework for lessons learning to ensure that the lessons are integrated back into GALVmed. The Collaboration, Learning and Adapting (CLA) framework, developed and used by USAID, is a useful approach that we have adapted to frame our learning process. USAID defines CLA as “a set of processes and activities that help ensure programming is coordinated, grounded in evidence, and adjusted as necessary to remain effective throughout implementation” (ADS 201, 2016).

CLA is based in the understanding that development projects operate in complex systems, which shift over time. In this changing landscape, the objectives that we set out at the beginning of a project or programme can be affected over a three or five year period of performance. Responding in an adaptive manner ensures that we keep moving towards having a positive impact. The adaptive decisions we make must be based in evidence, which is why we are integrating processes for CLA into the beginning of our projects or programmes and adjusting these throughout the project or programme life cycle. Essentially, this is an approach to learning that fits in perfectly with our developmental approach.

There are three main steps in our learning process:

  1. The first step is to accurately define and diagnose the problem (or best practice). Some problems are logistical or operational and have easy fixes. But these, while important, do not usually make or break a project. Others are deeper and more complex and require a lot more thought and reflection to unpack them and to understand how to respond to them. Sometimes there are multiple causes to a problem, with some of them being root causes.
  2. The second step is to categorise the problem (or best practice). The use of categories ensures key information is not missed and helps to focus our thinking on lessons. To ensure consistency across projects, there are standard categories for each project and additional categories specific to a project can be added as needed.
  3. The third step is to define a road map for the way forward. This involves defining what action needs to take place, and how to know when that action has succeeded. At the end of a lessons learning exercise, there should be a road map that takes us from a lesson to action and adaptation.

Throughout this process, active collaboration is key to ensuring that we view our lessons from multiple perspectives and that our stakeholders have a voice.

This blog was written by Katharine Tjasink