Thursday 29 January 2015

A written survey with people who don't read and write

Last year - ah, no, in 2013 - my colleague Wolfgang Stuppert and I carried out an evaluation of services for survivors of violence against women and girls in Mozambique. We felt it was important to gather feedback from many women and girls who used the services. We had only little time in Mozambique and no resources to train enumerators who would interview large numbers of service users.

We decided to organise a written survey. But some service users, we were told, could not read and write well enough.
Still, virtually anyone can hold a pen and tick off images. That's why we went for the following process:
  • We wrote up a set of short, simple questions, to be read out by the receptionist or other staff of the service centre to the client, just before the client would leave the centre. The questions were preceded by a straightforward explanation as to how the client would answer the questions. (Of course the centre staff were briefed as to how to read out the instructions and questions - without paraphrasing or using their own examples, so as to avoid bias.)
  • And this is how they answered: each client received a card with rows of symbols, each row representing the possible answers to one of the question. Each time the centre staff read out a question, the client would tick off the relevant symbol on the card. Sitting at a distance from the staff, she could hide her response.
  • At the end, the client would fold up the response card, staple it and insert it into a sealed box.
That process was organised during the weeks preceding our 'own' field work in Mozambique. Upon arrival, the boxes were collected; we broke the seals and coded the responses.

We were impressed by the large numbers of answers, which generated quite interesting statistics - including some data that helpfully challenged our assumptions about the service users. And we did not come across anything that would have suggested ballot-rigging or other tampering by centre staff!

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