By Manuela Balliet, Advisor, Together for Girls
By Manuela Balliet, Advisor, Together for Girls
With nearly 70% of its population under the age of 25, Uganda has a special demographic profile. In 2015, Uganda’s commitment to implementing the VACS was motivated due to limited pre-existing nationwide data on the prevalence and magnitude of violence against children. What was available provided some insights into the social and cultural norms related to violence, but it was largely conducted by individual agencies, and the limitations in scope and depth impacted on data uptake.
The 2015 Uganda VACS was an opportunity to generate nationally representative data to inform programing and policies, and ultimate achievement of SDGs 5.1, 5.2 and 16.2.
It spurred Uganda into expressing interest to become a pathfinder country, which eventuated in 2016, making a formal, public commitment to ending all forms of violence against children.
Pathfinding countries use the INSPIRE Seven strategies for Ending Violence Against Children to understand the drivers of violence and build integrated responses. These strategies include but are not limited to the creation of a country’s national action plan to end violence.
Uganda’s strong political will to ending violence against children was met with the need to leverage the use of high quality data on the drivers of risk and protective factors on sexual violence against girls, and to design prevention and response interventions.
The Uganda VACS is unique. It is the first global Violence Against Children survey to include sub-national estimates. There are sub-national estimates for females in three special focus areas with high rates of HIV/AIDS and the survey also has sub-national data on boys for all four regions of Uganda.
The Together for Girls Research Fellowship in partnership with technical training from CDC, aims at strengthening individual and institutional capacity for VACS data research, to yield additional evidence-based prevention and response strategies to address violence against children.
The Research fellowships are incorporated in non-governmental institutions with strong research experience and expertise on VAC and are supported by government and international partners.
The fellowship provides a conceptual framework, and end-to-end methodologies on delivering a national analysis plan. This training equips research teams with quantitative data analysis skills tailored to the VACS survey, especially basic descriptive and inferential statistics and reference management of VACS-related literature.
AfriChild is an independent research institution which has been at the forefront of collecting VACS data. It was selected to host the research fellowship due to its formal commitment to strengthen the in-country research; generation of high quality evidence from data analysis; and provision of evidence for utilisation capacity. As part of the research fellowship, AfriChild is incorporating the VACS data training into a programme for researchers across the country, as well as policymakers.
The upcoming training for policymakers, practitioners and other multidisciplinary researchers will be less technical in terms of research and analysis, but will focus on how VACS data can inform intervention strategies and policies, to help stakeholders in the practice.
Empowering local researchers, policymakers and practitioners to take full ownership of the VACS data and research will enable more publications from the global south. AfriChild hosting the fellowship will result in peer review publications generated from within Uganda itself.
The key objective of the research fellowship is to reinforce these skills, and to enable local researchers in-countries to be internationally competitive within the scientific community and self-publish. There are two research fellows and three AfriChild in-house researchers, so for the first time in Uganda, the fellowship will culminate in a total of six papers.
A range of topics will be explored, such as adverse childhood experiences and the increased risk for HIV infection among children; mental health consequences of childhood sexual violence; perpetration of intimate partner violence among adolescents.
An additional goal is for all fellows to collaborate on and a joint paper, potentially exploring the links between household economic status, sexual violence and utilization of services among adolescents.
The rich data offered through the VACS will enable the fellows to focus on specific demographics, such as regions and age.
Beyond the research, this fellowship in Uganda promises long term results. AfriChild’s powerful advantage is their link between policymakers and practitioners, due to their involvement in different working groups at the country level. As a result, the CDC training they receive under the fellowship reinforces their capacity to continue feeding into ongoing or future policies and interventions and strategies. AfriChild has led subsequent training of 20 in-country researchers from 6 national universities in addition to training policy makers.