Rapidly understanding the needs of women and girls in humanitarian crisis zones

  • NE and NW Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria

Objective

In humanitarian and other crisis contexts, women and girls face specific needs and vulnerabilities, which are affected by gender inequalities and power imbalances. To ensure these needs are met, they first need to be fully understood.

CARE briefed us to design, develop, pilot and deploy a mobile application - to be used in humanitarian and other settings - to safely, efficiently and rapidly collect qualitative data from women and girls.

Exclusion drivers

Quality data collection: existing approaches did not provide the high-quality, real-time data required to make fast, accurate programming decisions - particularly qualitative data: capturing qualitative information from respondents was typically still done manually. What begins as an information rich, 30 minute key informant interview, or storytelling session, may result in the submission of a few sentences by an enumerator.

The nuance and richness of the original interview are lost, and is often not able to be used to inform any further analysis or action. Lack of trust: female interviewees often do not want to be alone during their interviews. Interviews happening in open environments increased propensity for background noise - meaning capturing clear and decipherable audio qual responses would be a challenge.

Fear of repercussion: respondents had confidentiality concerns - fear that their responses would leak in their community, and create backlash, meaning they were reluctant to open up, and speak honestly about the challenges they were facing.

Lack of infrastructure: Low internet connection, unreliable access to electricity, limited access to data credit

Low levels of digital literacy: Including lack of training and experience of enumerators, and disproportionately limited access to technology for women and girls

The product: VoiceApp

VoiceApp is a qualitative research technology designed to conduct rapid needs assessment studies in hard-to-reach geographies. It comprises an Android data collection mobile application that interviewers use to conduct qualitative interviews in humanitarian and post-crisis environments, and a web-based back-end where data is securely stored and analysed by researchers. VoiceApp reduces the burden on enumerators, and minimises the amount of data that is lost during conventional rapid needs assessments by utilising Google’s ‘Speech-to-Text’ software to instantly transcribe speech data that is collected during key informant interviews, and transmit it anonymously to a secure data analysis platform. To combat the issue of background noise, the additional function of including a typed response was included.

VoiceApp is designed to enable any enumerator, no matter their level of training or experience, to create a comfortable interview dynamic, and collect robust data from all types of respondents - from adolescent girls and boys, to parents, community members, to NGO, INGO, UN agencies and local government representatives.

To overcome the fear of repercussion, no PII data is collected using the VoiceApp, allowing respondents to feel safe in their ability to answer comfortably and authentically.

VoiceApp also includes an “active consent” process that can be tailored to individual interview contexts, whereby respondents must “prove” they understand the consent language, rather than merely saying “I consent”.

Impact

VoiceApp is currently fully-functional in English and Arabic, and is being utilised by CARE International to collect data for research studies in humanitarian zones including Nigeria, Syria, and South Sudan, with 96% of users citing it as ‘better than previous approaches’, and 88% ‘very easy and accessible to use’.

More information about CARE International can be found here.

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