One of the hardest things to get right when it comes to M4Dev, is content. This is especially true when working on complex and sensitive topics such as gender based violence, where even mentioning the subject can be considered taboo.
And yet it’s also an area where the dissemination of basic information is key to making a difference - a global consultation of Gender Based Violence (GBV) academics and practitioners shows that the second most useful intervention you can make is educating women and men about women’s rights.(1)
In Benin, where we recently kicked off design work on a project aiming to use ICTs to support GBV prevention & response, women and girls’ right to be protected from violence are enshrined in a law passed five years ago. However, when consulting with peer educators in the rural communities we’re working in, we discovered that people often had no knowledge of these laws. And yet peer educators reported that it was the communication and discussion about this information that seemed to cause the biggest impact.
We also noticed that there are multiple initiatives addressing GBV, including toll-free advice lines and an online platform, but most people have never heard of them. Peer educators working for different NGOs are not following a standardised approach to education on this topic, and often receive topics via WhatsApp which they are expected to develop independently into sensitisation activities.
These three discoveries represented interesting entry points both in terms of ICT and content creation: there is a lack of knowledge about key information, and a lack of reliable, unified resources for educators to use. At the same time, peer educators are already using mobile to help them in their work: as a communication tool as well as a research tool.
Because we wanted to use a fairly agile process incorporating principles of Human Centered Design, we decided to run with these entry points and see how we could improve the accessibility, availability and awareness of these different types of content using mobile.
The co-creation process
We started by creating an eco-system map identifying the actors involved in knowledge transfer and dialogue creation around GBV and other related topics. In our case this includes local women, members of ‘Men’s Committees’ who have received training on gender based violence, local authorities who deal with cases of GBV, Peer Educators, and young people, who tend to have higher literacy levels than their parents, and also play the role of ‘tech support’ in their homes, facilitating their parents' use of mobile.
Next, we made a shortlist of the key pieces of information identified as valuable by stakeholders: laws concerning acts of physical, emotional and economic violence against women and girls, as well as information on family planning, women’s inheritance rights, and pregnancy spacing.
Our plan is to bring stakeholders together, and, using participatory methods drawn from the HIV/AIDS Alliance Participatory Learning and Actions Toolkit, create written and audio messages that can be sent out by peer educators and influencers via mobile (whatsapp or SMS).
Because many of the participants can't read or write, and don't all speak the same language, we will be prioritising visual and oral activities like role play and drawing, and using many, many emojis. Through this process we hope to gain a better understanding of existing knowledge levels, influence and communication networks, gather stories of success, challenges and needs, whilst also accomplishing something tangible in the form of messages that will be sent out to peer networks as we go.
The assumptions we want to test
We're under no illusion that this idea is a definitive solution to the problem of GBV in these communities, however, we want to give the simplest ideas that emerge from the discovery process the chance to thrive and evolve, or be discarded, as quickly as possible. We will ultimately be looking to test the following assumptions:
- Community members are more likely to pay attention to communications created by other, trusted community members.
- Content topics identified as relevant by local stakeholders are more likely to have an impact than those decided on by central stakeholders
- Messages will be shared with others once received - creating a viral effect amongst community members
- Mobiles are an effective way of transmitting such messages
Confirming or disproving any of these will be a vital step in our design process, so stay tuned for a follow-up blog on the outcome of the co-creation workshops and how this informs our next activities. Ultimately, this type of ICT initiative will only have an impact if executed alongside a holistic programme aimed to address GBV at an individual, social, and institutional level. Emojis alone will never be enough, but we will at least be able to assess if they could be a key component of a wider set of interventions.
This project is being lead by OneWorld for UNFPA Benin. Feel free to drop a comment if you're interested in learning more!
(1) DFID Guidance Note, Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls, February 2015, G. Taylor, with E. Bell, J. Jacobson & P. Pereznieto