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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The issue with English

by Marium Ibrahim

The majority of the world's population does not speak English, but it is still seen as the global language.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, 2009

Education systems that focus on one language as the medium of instruction bring up questions of educational equity. Most countries use English as the primary medium of education, raising questions of who has access to this “global” education and who does not.

Many people, especially in developing countries, view learning English as the path to success, and a way to compete in the global economy. People also tend to equate language with intelligence, implying that people who do not have the opportunity to learn English are not as “intelligent” as people who can speak the language fluently. This is why many people advocate for English as the primary language of instruction.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Pakistan’s jirgas: buying peace at the expense of women’s rights?

by Ayesha Khan

A jirga in Afghanistan. Such systems are a commonplace dispute resolution mechanism in Pakistan as well.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

It has taken nine military operations since 2002 to clear Pakistan’s frontier and tribal areas from Taliban, and millions of people have been displaced from their homes, some more than once. Pakistanis have paid a high price for allowing religious extremism to grow on their soil. Between 2003-17 over 21,000 civilians, and even more militants, have been killed.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Connecting research to ongoing debates

by Saba Aslam

Women picking vegetables in Mirpurkhas
Photo credit: Collective team

Agricultural work in Pakistan is becoming feminised and accounts for more than 70 per cent in the work force. How well is women’s agricultural work is recognised amongst the policy makers of the country is still unclear, but it is a key area of interest for researchers in understanding the linkages between women’s agricultural work and their health outcomes.

Friday, 30 June 2017

What leads to behavioural change amongst rural women?

by Hussain Bux Mallah

Change isn't always as easy as is implied by this graffiti.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Behavioural change theorists argue that individual or community behaviour is embedded in complex cultural norms. Therefore, changes cannot occur in a straightforward manner.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Patriarchy: No silver lining

by Sidra Mazhar

Even in a war, a woman's contribution has it' place- in the kitchen.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

At the “International Conference on Gender, Work and Society” held on April 22nd – 23rd, 2017, the keynote speaker, Dr. Edwina Pio, spoke about how patriarchy can sometimes be beneficial for society. She gave the example of a woman opening her own business and seeking help from her husband in managing its finances. She was perhaps implying that a woman asking a man for help supports patriarchal norms, since it puts a man in a position of authority; but that accepting, or even utilizing, this unequal power relationship can help the woman.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Beyond a shared language

by Saba Aslam



World War I era poster in Yiddish to encourage food conservation. Caption (translated) "Food will win the war - You came here seeking freedom, now you must help to preserve it - Wheat is needed for the allies - waste nothing."
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

As social science researchers, we have to routinely work across language barriers with our respondents.

It is highly likely that the native language of a researcher (Urdu in my case) may be different from the respondents’. Great care is taken to simplify questionnaires so that they can be translated into the local language with minimal difficulty. The hiring of translators is also considered to be a high priority task in the research process and their proficiency in the local language is a deciding factor. Effective translation can play an important role in mitigating the language barrier between a researcher and a respondent. For this to happen, a translator should be well trained in the research process. Some people might argue that it is not necessary to train translators, and that their job is to simply ‘translate.’ But well trained translators not only understand the value of questions in the overall research process, they also experiment with different ways to get the respondent to understand the questions. The ownership and motivation of translators arise only when they are fully immersed into the research process. In my own involvement in the design and translation of an anthropometric training for a LANSA study on women’s work and nutrition in Sindh, I leveraged on my understanding of the study while translating some key concepts to the participants.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Who works and why: Detangling women’s agricultural work

by Sidra Mazhar

A woman cuts sugarcane in Mirpurkhas.
Photo credit: Collective team

Throughout the world, women play a very important role in the agricultural sector. In the last few decades, agriculture has undergone a gendered transformation termed the ‘feminization of agriculture’. National level statistics in developing countries show that there has been an increase in female involvement in agriculture accompanied by a steady decline in men’s participation. It is commonly believed that this increased participation in agriculture empowers women economically and socially. However, our LANSA survey on women’s work and nutrition in rural Sindh, where we surveyed new mothers about their work before, during, and after pregnancy, tells a different story.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Does empowerment work really empower?

by Marium Ibrahim

Mural by Chite Yarumo
Translation: We need to recreate a language which shows respect for women .If as men, we walked in the shoes of women we would be outraged.
Photocredit: Pixabay.com

Donor efforts to empower women often start with the reallocation of economic resources between men and women. Projects provide women with capital through in-kind support, loans or grants, or enhance their capacity to use it through trainings or networking efforts. Greater capital is expected to cause a shift in the power dynamics vis-à-vis men, leading to more empowered women. It is undeniable that such programs have led to economic freedom for women, and to better economies. But does having more economic resources necessarily lead to empowerment of women?

Friday, 31 March 2017

Access and Empowerment in the Age of Smartphones

by Ebad Pasha

Mobile phones are increasingly becoming accessible to a wider audience.
Photocredit: greenbookblog.org

The advent of 3G and 4G technologies at affordable rates coupled with abundant availability of low price Chinese mobile phones in the market has meant that an internet capable smartphone is becoming increasingly accessible to the lower and lower-middle income groups in Pakistan. We conducted fieldwork in three low-income neighbourhoods of Lyari, Korangi and Sultanabad late last year for a project interviewing youth of the areas. It revealed that although the technology has not been completely embraced by the lower income groups in Karachi, affordability and literacy were not impediments for smartphone usage.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What women do

by Haris Gazdar

Women and girls cut grass for fodder in Mirpurkhas
Photo credit: Collective team

We use the word ‘right’ a lot, but it is a haloed and distant term. In many languages it invokes truth – an aura of goodness and an assuring feeling of timelessness. A nation has the right to self-determination, an individual has the right to her or his conscience, and a child has the right to education. A nation can be hundreds or thousands of years old, and might have always had the right to self-determination, but it can practice self-determination once it is recognised by other nations. Ask any Palestinian. The individual’s right to conscience might have existed since before the day Socrates drank poisoned hemlock, but it can be practised when other individuals and the legal and political systems recognise that a person cannot be punished for their beliefs alone. The child always had the right to be educated but will actually be schooled when the community recognises this right and provides the necessary resources. Recognition, therefore, is the more accessible fellow-traveller of right. It is not only the way in which rights are realised, but is also a step towards making rights enforceable.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Aid: Who gets credit?

by Hussain Bux Mallah

Logos are one way aid agencies claim recognition, but what do they mean to the populations they serve?
Photo credit: Flickr/DFID

During our work in communities, I often encounter very interesting myths about where development aid comes from.

In 2004, when I was working on a project on social protection programmes in Sindh, I spoke to a government official affiliated with the Zakat-Ushr and Baitulmal programmes. He believed that the funding source for these programmes was “Maal-e-Ghanimat” sent to Pakistan by the Saudi government. In other words, he thought the state programmes were funded by income generated from booty accumulated during wars fought at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, which was donated to the country’s poor by Saudi Arabia. After the 2010 floods in Pakistan, we were conducting a survey on food insecurity and found little to no acknowledgement of the aid provided by the government, key aid agencies or international bodies for rescue and relief work. Most respondents believed that the work was done and funded by the Pakistan Army and NGOs. Another interesting misconception was around the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), an unconditional cash transfer programme for Pakistani women living in extreme poverty. The stipends from the programme were often referred to as “Benazir’s Money,” with a common (erroneous) assumption that the financial assistance given is generated from Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s life insurance deposits, and not state and multilateral aid.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

When help hurts

by Marium Ibrahim

Sculpture by David Shrigley, contrasting the two reactions to help.
Photo credit: Pinterest

Help is a notion that many of us take for granted. You ask for help when you cannot do something yourself. But is help always a good thing? What is its relationship to identity, agency and power?

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The hurdle of hesitance

by Azmat Budhani

People's fear of health related interventions is not new. Spoof by British satirist James Gillroy depicting people's fear of small pox vaccines, 1802
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

As a researcher, I have often dealt with non-responses or respondent hesitancy in fieldwork. Earlier, I used to think that this hesitancy can only be minimized by building personal rapport through multiple visits. Over the years though, I have come to appreciate the role survey design plays in participant engagement. Our LANSA study, for example, seeks to investigate the impacts of women’s agricultural work on their own and their children’s nutrition levels. For this survey, we took the mother of an infant as the key respondent. Placing her instead of the head of household (who in most cases are male breadwinners for the family) on the top of the household roster had important implications for our fieldwork, as discussed in an earlier blog. Despite the process of anthropometric measurement being fairly clinical, or even intrusive, we found a majority of mothers eager to cooperate. They were keen to provide any information that could potentially benefit the health and future well-being of their children. Women tried to navigate constraints put by male community leaders and heads of households. One mother, for example said, ‘’My husband works in the Pakistan Army. He does not like NGOs. However, I am willing to participate.”

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Flying low: Everyone seems to have a solution for PIA

by Asad Sayeed

PIA's first international flight, London Heathrow Airport, 1955
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are two subjects that Pakistan’s chattering classes love to loathe when they get together. However, unlike the helplessness they feel about Zardari’s continued role in politics, everyone seems to have a solution for PIA. The problem is deemed to be overstaffing due to nepotism and corruption by political governments; and the logical conclusion is that the airline should be privatised. As with most issues in Pakistan, it is useful to introduce some complexity to the equation.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Understanding agri-food value chains for nutrition

by Nigel Poole, Haris Gazdar and Mar Maestre

Photo credit: Flickr/ADB

Undernutrition is a central and persistent challenge for global development, above all in South Asia. Mobilising agri-food businesses to support efforts to reduce undernutrition is challenging. The LANSA (Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia) team has been researching for the past two years how the markets for food can be improved so that substantive and sustained consumption of nutrient-dense foods by the poor in households that are post-farm-gate is achieved. Here, nutrient rich foods are those that, if consumed in adequate quantities (WASH and health conditions not considered) are likely to improve the nutritional status of individuals who are undernourished in terms of micronutrients. We understand agri-food value chains as the initiatives, either donor, government or business driven that we will be analysing.