Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Karachi is Open to Survey

by Ilma Ghouse
Hussain Bux Mallah/Collective for Social Science Research
Sometimes the process of gathering data itself throws up findings about the subject that were not part of the original research questions. Recently, the Collective for Social Science Research undertook a Karachi wide data collection exercise for a study on the well-being of adolescents, supported by UNICEF and the Government of Sindh. Data were collected on over 2,800 adolescents from 120 localities in the city excluding upper income areas. The challenges faced while conducting this research provided unique opportunities for insight into the functioning of the city.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Ameliorate or leverage?

by Haris Gazdar

Photo Credit: Fatima Zaidi

‘Poverty, Inequality and Economic Growth’ was the title of this year’s annual general meeting of the Pakistan Society of Development Economist (PSDE) – the largest professional association of economists in the country – held in the national capital in early December.  Inequality, as distinct from poverty, has occupied many minds of late. The financial and economic crises of 2008 and 2009 swung opinion against fat cat bosses who were seen to have been further enriched as the middle classes were impoverished.  The work of Thomas Picketty, the French economist whose analysis of wealth and income distribution trends, added academic gravitas to popular discontent with the plutocrats, was frequently mentioned at the PSDE meeting.  Not to be left behind, the World Bank came up with its own South Asia report on inequality, which actually showed that at least in terms of consumption expenditure the region was among the least unequal.

Friday, 28 November 2014

But that’s another blog

by Haris Gazdar

From left: Arafat, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bhutto, Gaddafi in Lahore, Feb. 25, 1974. AFP

Who is interpreting? 
 From left: Arafat, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bhutto, Gaddafi in Lahore, Feb. 25, 1974. AFP

The question first arose many years ago when my colleagues and I started to design the qualitative component of a study on access to land.  We thought we should use the opportunity provided by that study to develop our own protocols and training manuals for conducting qualitative research.  We read a lot of material that was available then on research methodology, and got busy with serious debates while trying to complete various research tasks.  What were the relative merits, functions and complementarities of qualitative and quantitative approaches (another blog)? How does a social policy focus allow qualitative research to escape the more narcissistic indulgences of contemporary anthropology (another blog)?  Why was it important to insist on the distinctiveness of qualitative social science research from similar-feeling field approaches such as participatory appraisals and action research (another blog)? How the term ‘data’ needed to be constantly rescued from the monopoly of statisticians (another blog)? Why was rigorous qualitative research anything but woolly, and usually much harder work than numbers (definitely another blog)?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Debating political economy of the budget

by Asad Sayeed and Kabeer Dawani 

Two rupee coin by Rehman Chughtai

In the last week of October, an event was hosted by a multilateral organization in collaboration with a local think tank to discuss ‘The Political Economy of the Budget.’ The invite was a pleasant surprise for two reasons.  First, it is unusual in Pakistan to come across a seminar with the ‘political economy’ prefix as part of it. Budgets are especially amenable to political economy analysis given the explicitly political nature of resource allocations and revenue collection. Second, seminars and discussions on the budget generally begin in the second quarter of the year. Debating budget related issues so early in the fiscal year is also a welcome initiative.  

Friday, 31 October 2014

Shifting Norms

by Mysbah Balagamwala

My colleagues and I spent some time in the rural areas of Badin and Shahdadpur in the Sindh province of Pakistan, to conduct initial exploratory research for a LANSA study on the impact of women’s agricultural work on nutrition. The aim of the study is to understand the trade-off women working in agriculture face between work and care and the effect that can have on nutritional outcomes. Our preliminary qualitative research consisted of interviews with women from poor households – small landowners, sharecroppers and agricultural labourers – which focused on antenatal care, infant and young child feeding, access to health care and fertility behaviour.  This approach was particularly useful for observing processes, relations and norms.

Friday, 10 October 2014

“The black spot on the radiant face of Islam”: Muslim Family Laws Ordinances 1961

by Ayesha Khan

Supreme Court of Pakistan by ImposterTV

Until just recently, when provincial legislatures began to legislate against domestic violence and sexual harassment at the workplace, the most progressive legislation for women in Pakistan was the Muslim Family Laws Ordinances of 1961. The MFLO passed by Ayub Khan became the bete noir of the religious right, who argued noisily that since its provisions fall in the domain of Muslim personal law, they come under Shariah and do not belong in the domain of civil law. When they were promulgated there was only the British

Monday, 29 September 2014

Challenges of a different kind - the role of food prices in the lives of the poorest in Pakistan

by Mysbah Balagamwala and Haris Gazdar

The mother of one of our respondents in Karachi cooks roti (flat bread). Roti made from wheat flour is the staple food in our research sites
Photo Credit: Naila Mahmood/Collective for Social Science Research 
Countries like Pakistan always appear at the global stage to be battling big challenges such as political crises, conflicts and disasters.  But the picture remains incomplete without seeing challenges of a different kind that ordinary people, particularly the poorest, face on a daily basis.  Research conducted in Pakistan, alongside nine other developing countries, for the Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility project provides just such a perspective.  Qualitative research was carried out by the Collective for Social Science Research in 2012 and 2013 in a cluster of villages in Dadu district and in an urban working-class neighbourhood in Karachi to explore how rising food prices were affecting the poor.  Three important themes emerged from our research in Pakistan which helps understand ways in which food inflation impacts the poor and the vulnerable.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Flood 2014 – Some Lessons from 2010

by Haris Gazdar
Flooding in Punjab Province, Pakistan from 2010. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

On 6th September the Flood Forecasting Division (FFD) of the Pakistan Meteorological  Department reported ‘Exceptionally High Flood” in Chenab at Khanki and Jhelum at Rasul.  Both rivers had already inundated large swathes of the floodplains and hundreds of villages by 8th September when the FFD issued warnings of a second peak over the coming 24 to 48 hours at Trimmu where these two flows meet.  Panjnad braces itself as I write and the Alipur and Jatoi tehsils of Muzaffargarh district which bore the brunt of the 2010 Indus flood in Punjab are under threat.  The command areas of Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri barrages – virtually all of the lower Indus floodplains in Sindh wait. It is already a big flood and is likely to get only bigger.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Scaling up Food Fortification in Pakistan: A Feasable Option

by Samar Zuberi
Photo Credit: Aga Khan University – Farheen Ayub Khan
A recent food fortification scoping study endorses food fortification strategies in Pakistan. The report was commissioned by DFID Pakistan and conducted by MQSUN. Local analysis on effective means to address micronutrient undernourishment or ‘hidden hunger’ is much needed. Over half of Pakistan’s population of children under 5 suffer from anaemia and vitamin A deficiency and 39% are zinc deficient. Half of non-pregnant mothers are anaemic, and 42% are deficient in vitamin A and, the same percentage are deficient in zinc (NNS 2011).

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The beginning of a dialogue: Responsive agriculture-nutrition research

by Samar Zuberi

How can agriculture and food-related policies and interventions be better designed to improve nutrition outcomes, particularly for young women and girls? Dialogue around this question was started at a workshop hosted by the Collective for Social Science Research / Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) on 15 April in Karachi. The workshop brought together diverse stakeholders in agriculture and nutrition including senior officials from provincial governments, academic researchers, representatives of international development partners, and civil society organizations and activists.