Tuesday 30 June 2009

A plea for quality in M&E

Like the previous entry, this post is -remotely- inspired by Philipp Mayring's handbook on qualitative content analysis (in German, 10th edition 2008). Mayring is a professor of psychology --- now don't run away! Psychology can teach us a lot about assessing fuzzy development processes.
As shown in the post below, any scientific analysis rests on qualitative steps which determine what is important, how the "what" should be measured, and how the measurements should be interpreted. These steps are taken by researchers, i.e. by common mortals. There is no absolute truth (leaving aside religious beliefs) - there are only theories. Even theories that come with figures are just theories, to be confirmed or refuted in subsequent rounds of research.

Friday 26 June 2009

Quantitative is qualitative, too...

Yesterday I read an advertisement for a body lotion scientifically proven* to better the skin of 80% of lotion users. The *footnote explained that, in a trial bringing together twenty women, 80% stated the lotion made their skin feel smoother. Does that sound scientific enough? In any case, it illustrates how you turn qualitative judgements (respondents' reported feelings) into "hard" figures, a procedure which as such is not "manipulative" but established scientific practice.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Direct democracy in Germany

At the tender age of 47 I discover that I can submit electronic petitions to my national parliament, or support existing protests against or suggestions for new laws. For Germans: Jede/r kann eine Petition beim Bundestag einreichen, bzw. bestehende öffentliche Petitionen unterstützen. Im Moment gibt es da 75, z.B. gegen die Besteuerung von Kondomen (wichtig gegen HIV/AIDS), zu Fragen des Arbeits-, Miet-, Sozial-, Steuer- und Verkehrsrechts und vielem mehr, was BürgerInnen im täglichen Leben beschäftigt. Politische Beteiligung auch zwischen den Wahlen. Hier ist die Petitionsseite - Registrieren dauert 3 Minuten.

Friday 19 June 2009

Count your shoes

Since 2000, the German development bank KfW has organised public panel discussions on globalisation. In its 50th instalment on 16 June, three Africans and two Europeans, one woman and four men, discussed the topic "development is the future". Dirk Messner, Director of the German Institute for Devlopment Policy (DIE) emphasised the need to address climate change; Simon Maxwell from the British Overseas Development Institue (ODI) called for Europeans to unite their efforts in a common development policy and enhanced coherence between development and other policies. Francis Appiah (African Peer Review Mechanism APRM) reiterated the appeal for better co-ordinated, multilateral approaches. He said government officials in Ghana spent about 300 days a year in donor meetings of all kinds... Norah Uwaraga, ED of a consultancy bureau, pointed to the potential benefits of carbon emissions trading to the lives of "ordinary" Africans.

Sunday 14 June 2009

IDB, IDP and other acronyms

Consult the Aid glossary of Development Initatives, a consultancy bureau. It does not offer much on social science concepts, but helpful explanations of terms and acronyms around multilateral institutions, financial aid and the jargon that comes with huge programmes. The terms "gender" or "gender mainstreaming" do not appear, but maybe that means that everybody has understood what that is about by now? Or have they been mainstreamed away...?

Sunday 7 June 2009

Feminism and Religion

Yesterday, at the Religion Revisited conference (scroll down for more posts on the topic), I joined the workshop Religious Feminists - Allies in the struggle for Women's Rights. What is special about "religious feminism" as compared to "secular feminism" - and does it matter what kind of feminist you are?

Secularism, Citizenship and Gender Equality

...is the title of the opening lecture on Saturday at Religion Revisited (see post below) delivered by Deniz Kandiyoti from the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She explains how the meaning and practice of both secularism and citizenship derive from specific historical contexts. Turkey and India serve as illustrations for secularisms in crisis. A telling example is the near-religious cult devoted in Turkey to great secularist Ataturk. Illiberal secularism may affect women's rights just as negatively as religious dogma... In India, the key national dilemma - finding an integrative narrative in a post-colonial society divided by religious and caste cleavages - has produced a pluralism that accentuates rather than weakens the role of religion in public life, because it is a political pluralism, says Kandiyoti, not a religious one.

Friday 5 June 2009

"Religion Revisited"

This is the title of an international conference at the Gunda Werner Institute (Böll Foundation) in Berlin, with the topic Women's Rights and the Political Instrumentalisation of Religion. The two-day event is part of the 11-country UNRISD research project Religion, Politics and Gender Equality, which will publish its final report in October 2009. Tonight, the opening panel brought together José Casanova (Sociology of Religion, Georgetown University, USA), Anne Phillips (Gender Institute and Government Department, London School of Economics, UK), Farida Shaheed (Shirkat Gah Resource Centre, Pakistan) and Agnieszka Graff (Warsaw University, Poland).

Wednesday 3 June 2009

R2P and women in conflict

The feminist Gunda Werner Institut (Böll Foundation, Berlin) convened an experts' meeting on 27 May on the Right to Protect (R2P), a fairly new concept in international law, and its implications on women. The bottom line: R2P is innovative in that it places human rights above State sovereignty, traditionally held inviolable in international law. But this political concept does not come with new enforcement mechanisms: it is still the UN Security Council that determines whether a State has proven incapable of protecting its citizens' human rights, in which case R2P can justify military intervention.