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Valuing Hard-to-Measure Impact

“We know it’s hard for you to see the outcomes of our work because it’s not like we can show you piglets or a building or anything,” the Empowering Communities as Actors for Transforming Societies (e-CATS) team told me during our catch-up call last month. However, after so many years working with SIA Grant Partners, we know that even when there are tangible, measurable outcomes, they might not be the most important outcomes.

Seeing Empowerment

“Empowerment” is a huge and nebulous goal, but one of its aspects is helping people see themselves in a new light and finding power within that they can use to direct their lives. The video below from CIFORD Kenya’s workshop on girls’ empowerment in Meru, Kenya, ends with an example of empowerment beginning to take root. Watch the video, and at minute four, hear the young women proclaim, “I am a leader!” This display of a changed mentality may be the first small step toward the ultimate goal of a changed society with gender equality.

For the Visionary Women’s Centre’s (VWC) Mother’s Support Group in western Kenya, it’s the intangible, difficult-to-measure benefits that are deeply important. After sharing the easily measured outcome of how much they saved in their piggy banks, the VWC members shared stories of lives changed through the program.

“More than once, when asked how the project has helped them, women will say that before the Mother’s Support Group, they were ordered around and didn’t have any status in the household,” shared Lizette Gilday, one of the VWC leaders. “Now, the women have vegetables, chickens, goats, and cows and can pay for their children and grandchildren’s schooling, and that brings status and standing within their family. One woman said that this status also improved her self-image; now, she is a granny who is smart and educating her children and grandchildren.”

Visionary Women's Center members receive their new savings pots (piggy banks) for the year, balancing them on their heads in a playful moment.

Seeing change

To try to capture some data about intangible changes, Universal Love Alliance (ULA) in Uganda did baseline surveys at their workshop for men who have perpetrated domestic violence. At the beginning of the session, all 27 attendees agreed that “a man’s choice should be accepted as the decision within the family and implemented without question.”

During the workshop, the ULA leaders talked about different types of power, including power over, power to, power with, and power within. “After these presentations, the men were split into groups to determine whether they had learned something new. Each person shared with his group members what he learned during the sessions. They demonstrated reception to the ideas presented about living in harmony with their wives, and they laughed with each other as each shared the mistakes and hurt they had caused their wives out of ignorance.” The ULA team will follow up with the men and their wives in another two months to see how the workshops have impacted the family.

Men participating in the Men For Women Empowerment workshop run by Universal Love Alliance

As for how we might see the impact of e-CATS’s peacebuilding training of trainers workshops, we’ve agreed to have some of the newly-trained peacebuilders lead a session for me and the SIA African Advisory Board when we gather together in Kenya next month! What better way to show success than having the trainers demonstrate what they have learned in person?


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