Making & Understanding Girl connections in Rural Uganda

August 30, 2011
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In June and July, Bell & Payne Consulting worked with BRAC to conduct research to understand connections between girls in rural Uganda for The Girl Effect. The Girl Effect believe that connecting girls brings value to their lives and could help unleash the “girl effect”, whereby girls living in poverty are able to become empowered, educated and healthy citizens.

In June and July, Bell & Payne Consulting worked with BRAC to conduct research to understand connections between girls in rural Uganda for The Girl Effect. The Girl Effect believe that connecting girls brings value to their lives and could help unleash the “girl effect”, whereby girls living in poverty are able to become empowered, educated and healthy citizens. The goal of the research was to explore existing connections amongst girls in rural Uganda to understand how new connections around the world might add value to their daily lives. During the research girls explored the following topics: what girls connect about, how they connect with each other, where they connect and what motivates them to connect with each other.
A girl-led insight process was designed and managed by Bell & Payne Consulting and conducted in country with support from BRAC Uganda. Twenty girls, aged between 12 and 18 years, were recruited through the BRAC club network (ELA Programme) from in and around Kaliro and Kangulumira, and were trained as girl researchers to enable them to conduct research about girl connection with their peers and others in their communities. Girls came from a range of backgrounds and included girls both in, and out of, school. Workshops were held with four teams of girls at BRAC branch offices in Kaliro and Kangulumira, with support from the BRAC Regional Coordinator, Area Managers and Programme Assistants. With their help we were able to equip and empower the girls to become researchers. They also organised the food, a definite highlight, which never failed to go down a storm with hungry girl researchers! Alongside the girl-led insight process, filming in Kaliro was undertaken to follow the story of one girl researcher to explore the important role her connections have played in her life.
The girl-led research process consisted of three stages that were facilitated by the Bell & Payne Consulting team in Uganda:
Stage 1: Training workshop, in which girl researchers got to know each other and build team spirit; were involved in setting the agenda for the research (including deciding what questions they wanted to ask their peers about girl connections) and trained in research techniques including conversational interviewing techniques and recording findings. The beauty of the approach is that it harnesses girls’ existing knowledge about connection and draws on their existing social networks to ensure they interview people with whom they have good relationships.
Stage 2: Supported insight gathering, in which girl researchers conducted between two to three weeks of research in their own communities including 6 conversational interviews. Girl researchers selected interviewees including pairs of same age girlfriends, younger girls, boys, adult men and women and community leaders. In their role as researchers, girls were also given digital cameras to capture images of connection and, following a camera tutorial, produced some stunning images. During stage 2, girl researchers attended mentoring sessions to continue building their capacities as researchers and address any problems they were experiencing with their interviews and cameras, and discuss their findings. The team also conducted one-to-one visits to girls to check in on them and provide dedicated support where necessary.
Stage 3: Analysis, reflection and sharing, in which girls participated in an analysis workshop to give feedback on their interviews and make sense of the data they had gathered, drawing on their own experiences as rural girls to assist with the interpretation of the information gathered. The teams then met at the Hotel Paradise on the Nile in Jinja for a Connection Day to enable them to make new connections with other girl researchers, share their findings and celebrate their experiences as researchers. The Connection Day was a resounding success and the girls thoroughly enjoyed themselves, participating in games to help them connect with each other before sharing their findings about girl connection from interviews in discussion group hubs. Particular highlights included a yarn game in which two girls who didn’t know each other were connected by coloured yarn entangled with the yarn of other pairs. The girls had to follow their piece of yarn to find each other on the other end and, on meeting, let off party poppers to celebrate finding their new friend. The room exploded in an excited roar of laughter and colour. The pass-the-parcel game in which girls danced to music and opened layers of a parcel to find brightly coloured t-shirts saying “I’m connected” was also great fun. During the Connection Day, girls presented dramas of girl-connection stories had a chance to view an exhibition of the images of girl connection, and their associated stories, which they had captured during their research on their digital cameras. There was a definite party atmosphere to the Connection Day, which culminated in the presentation of certificates to the girls from representatives from The Girl Effect, followed by group photos, with the girls proudly sporting their new “I’m connected” t-shirts.
In addition to generating a wealth of knowledge about connections between girls in rural Uganda, the girl-led insight process had a number of other impacts. It enabled girls to make new connections with girls from different backgrounds both within their own communities and beyond; it boosted their confidence and enabled them to develop new skills. We saw a marked change from the reserved girls who attended the training workshop to the confident and sociable girls who came to the Connection Day. It was exciting to watch girls bonding during the experience and see, for ourselves, the “value” of girls forming new connections.
None of this could have been possible without the support from BRAC to whom we’d like to throw out a big “thank you”. But, most of all, thank you to all our girl researchers for getting involved and teaching us so much about girl connection in rural Uganda.
Guest blog by Ruth Payne, Director, Bell & Payne Consulting
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