As a sub-study of the larger GLOBVAC funded project 'NGOs and the transfer of global maternal health policies- NGOMA' this study seeks to investigate the transfer of global maternal health policy approaches through the actions of international NGOs. Through a multi-sited study on global policy levels and in urban and rural Malawi, the project examines how, and to what effect, policies and programmes made by global communities of practice work themselves out within national policy circles and local practice.
Following up on the Millennium Development Goals, the established 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) furthered its precursor's strategy by pronouncing a more extensive, inclusive and interlinked list of global targets. Within this alteration, the maternal health field has undergone a policy shift where strengthening of maternal- and reproductive health is regarded as necessarily interlinked to the implementation of 'gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls', the SDG5. In the wake of this shift, a vast number of global policy actors and international- and national non-governmental organisations (I)NGOs) adapted programmes to follow up the appeal. These organizations functions as advocates and agents of global development policies as they contextualizes and implement these policies on all levels of society.
Given this outline, 'achieve gender equality and empowering women and girls' has become almost a social movement within the global development field. Consequently, women and girls in the global south have been presented as modern symbols of progress. This has been communicated by the international development discourse as 'unleashing untapped potentials' and 'powerful entrepreneurs of change'. Women and girls are thus promoted as individual agents that if empowered will break through the barriers that hold them back and save not only themselves and their family from poverty but the whole world. This individualist turn to women and girls in the global south is reflected in the gender-framing interventions, such as behavioral change, life-skills training etc., that are carried out by (I)NGOs. These interventions focus on the individual girls and women's specific attitudes, behavior, self-efficacy and resilience such as, school-discipline, sexual abstinence, condom- and contraceptive use etc., Thus, less focus is put on ethical and practical structural inequality due to gender norms, human rights violations, socio political- and economic factors, poor infrastructure such as health and education services.
This project critically analyses this individualist shift by adapting a culture- and community psychological transformative approach to community and a critical turn to language. Focusing on how concepts such as 'gender' and 'empowerment' tap into the field of global development, the study attempt to answer questions such as; whose voice is enhanced, whose voice is muted, which discussions are promoted, silenced or shut down, who benefits from the dominant discourse and who is disfavored. Doing so, the study intends to make overt the tacitly taken for granted knowledge, and make visible the common sense truths that may operate as oppressing to marginalised individuals and communities.
The empirical research is based on an 11-month research stay in rural and urban Malawi. Based on the findings I aim to contribute to existing social scientific development theory, challenging the prevailing global development debate on gender equality- and public health policy and practice. In addition, the lengthy fieldwork has given me the opportunity to go thoroughly into data collection and analysis, letting these two components mutually guide each other.
In line with the NGOMA project, this sub-study has clear policy relevance, given that bilateral donors, including Norway, direct substantial funding to non-governmental organisations, primarily international NGOs. In addition, the project is committed to knowledge exchange beyond the academic sphere, by providing scientific input at policy-related conferences, panels of donors and nongovernmental organisations and popular press. Additionally, together with NGOMA colleagues and with partners at Chancellor College, Malawi I am working on a book manuscript: Climbing the aid ladder: local perspectives on development aid in the 20th century. University Alabama press. NGOgraphies series. Edited by David Lewis and Mark Schuller.
March 2019 Professor Sidsel Roalkvam and I were invited to present our research on the international workshop "25 YEARS OF DEMOCRACY: GOVERNANCE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN MALAWI" held in Blantyre, Malawi. The contributions for this workshop are planned to end in a proposal for a special issue. While in Malawi, we also arranged a workshop regarding our forthcoming book on 27. February.
To inform global and national Malawian policy makers of these findings, the project disseminated the data at the Norwegian Embassy in Lilongwe, Malawi, and at the international workshop "25 Years of Democracy: Governance and Sustainable Development in Malawi" in Blantyre, Malawi.
As part of the larger GLOBVAC funded project ?NGOs and the transfer of maternal health policies ? NGOMA? this project collaborates with colleagues at Chancellor College, Malawi. Our gathered research have resulted in a book manuscript of a NGOMA project book in process. The book will be launched in Malawi as an approach to further and inform the local NGOs and policy-makers of our findings from the global, national and local contexts.
The proposed project is relevant to the GLOBVAC's objective to provide knowledge on how to follow up the MDGs and achieve the SDGs on reproductive- and maternal health. The study is aligned to the GLOBVAC funded research project 'NGOs and the transfer of global maternal health policies' (NGOMA -234497). The research aim and approach is based on, and informed by, the preliminary findings of the NGOMA project. The study will provide knowledge on how maternal- and reproductive health policies transfer between the global-, national- and local levels, and how these alterations have consequences for people subjected to and dependent on these policies.
The main aim is to map out how maternal- and reproductive health on a local level is interpreted, understood and how health policies are absorbed. This is crucial in order to understand the implementation of health systems, health interventions and their consequences.
Empowering adolescent girls has become a social movement within the field of health and development. Promoting and investing in girls is seen as an imperative mean to reduce unintended teen-pregnancy, maternal mortality and to end poverty. Access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights constitutes one of the SDG 5 milestones to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. However, there is an inconsistency in the global health and development discourse about what empowerment and gender equality means, which on a local level has impacts on the well-intended and needed health policies. By looking at processes of opposition, criticism, structures of inclusion, exclusion, diverse interpretations of policies, and by observing how competing interests manifest themselves through culture, language, ideologies and power structures, the proposed study address the key questions; whose voice is enhanced, whose voice is muted, which discussions are promoted or silenced, who benefits from the dominant discourse and who is disfavoured.