Women Shaping Their Futures Through Technology

by Oxfam Canada | April 1, 2021

Power Up

Women Shaping Their Futures Through Technology

To measure the impact of the Power Up project at the end of its three-year run, 16 participants collected 56 stories of Most Significant Change across four districts in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

The Project: Power Up

Power Up (2017-2020) was a Global Affairs Funded project that's part of Oxfam Canada’s work on women’s transformative leadership. In collaboration with three local partners, we aimed to empower women and girls in Indonesia to take part in local democratic processes and exercise their rights.

Before Power Up, women were largely excluded from any meaningful participation in West Nusa Tenggara, the province in Indonesia where the Power Up project was based. Despite strong laws designed to empower Indonesia’s citizens to oversee the planning for village development budgets and obtain information from the government, women had been effectively excluded due to patriarchal social norms.

Using technology to gain more information and understanding of the village development planning process, women worked together to become more involved in local decision-making and to ensure that village resources were being invested in women’s rights and needs – particularly related to the region’s extremely high maternal and infant mortality rates. Communities and officials alike identified high-risk pregnancy as a key local health concern that required more attention and investment.

This project took place in Indonesia:

A map of the world with Indonesia highlighted in green

The Challenge

Power Up’s final learning review in 2020 aimed to gather information on the project’s outcomes and build collective knowledge on how changing social norms can promote women’s transformative leadership.

The challenge inherent in applying a feminist approach to evaluation work is that the communities involved in our projects have usually not participated in designing project evaluations. In the case of the Power Up final learning review, this meant taking several steps before being able to design and complete the evaluation, including introducing ideas about feminist MEAL, developing the capacity to participate in these processes and then applying these new ideas and skills to the evaluation itself.

We overcame this challenge by bringing together our partners and participants for a four-day workshop in which we discussed issues related to feminist MEAL, introduced the specific methodology that would be used in this study, developed a set of project evaluation questions related to their experiences with the project, and practiced collecting, writing and selecting Most Significant Change stories.

The Process

The Power Up final learning review used a Meaning of the term "Most Significant Change (or MSC) approach" The Most Significant Change (MSC) approach involves generating and analyzing personal accounts of change and deciding which of these accounts is the most significant – and why. There are three basic steps in using MSC: 1) Deciding the types of stories that should be collected (for example, about practice change or health outcomes or empowerment) 2) Collecting the stories and determining which stories are the most significant 3) Sharing the stories and discussing values with stakeholders and contributors so that they can learn about what is valued. For more information, refer to this discussion on Most Significant Change on the Better Evaluation websiteOpens in a new window. . This means that participants collected stories about the project from local government leaders, religious leaders and community members who worked with Oxfam and its partners over the course of the three-year project. One of the main strengths of the MSC approach is that it helps us to identify the unexpected. The intention behind gathering these stories was to identify the changes that the project helped to set in motion at the individual and community level, and the women’s leadership it helped to spark.

As a first step, Oxfam facilitated a Meaning of the term "Focus Group Discussion" Focus Group Discussions (FGD) gather people to discuss a specific topic of interest. An FGD facilitator will allow participants to agree or disagree with each other so that the discussion can provide insight on how the group thinks about an issue. FGDs can therefore be used to explore the deeper meaning behind survey findings, gain perspective from a range of views and better understand local context and terminology. For more information, refer to this discussion of FGD on the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) websiteOpens in a new window. to better understand participant expectations and skill sets. We discovered that very few participants were familiar with the MSC approach, but they were quite willing to learn. During the focus group discussion, we discovered that several participants had a natural talent for interviewing and storytelling, and that was a good foundation for the MSC process.

Participants practiced interviewing each other in a workshop setting to learn the techniques they would later use to collect stories about experiences in the Power Up program. Sixteen participants then collected a total of 56 significant change stories over a six-day period across the four Power Up project districts. Story collectors used an interview guide based on the questions identified in the original workshop. All stories were written in the first-person perspective, considering that this has less possibility of being contaminated by the opinions of the writers, and thereby diminishing any potential distortion of the stories. In addition, the first-person perspective was deemed easier in terms of composition by the partners.

The selection of MSC stories is the most important part of this methodology. After collecting the stories, participants from the original workshop, plus eight women leaders from the Power Up project, met to identify and select which of these stories were most significant. From their own perspective, participants explored the significance of the individual and community-level changes detailed in each story. In going through the selection process, the participants were able to absorb the methodology of MSC, and see it as a series of processes and not just a matter of writing stories – it’s also about identifying unexpected changes as well as connections between different experiences and trends across the project. You can read the final set of selected stories here.

In the Power Up final learning review, women were involved as storytellers (collecting stories), validators (making sense of the stories) and panelists (setting criteria for story selection and selecting the stories used in program reporting). Collecting stories in Power Up communities allowed women participants to express the changes they experienced, as well as the struggles and challenges they faced at the family level and the village level as they worked to influence social norms or voice women’s needs. For Oxfam partners and staff, the MSC process revealed previously unseen and unexpected changes.

Ibu Dewi's Story

Ibu Dewi is a midwife and community influencer who first learned about the Power Up project when she got involved in developing a document on the 26 signs of risk in pregnancy and childbirth, which was being transformed into a digital, voice-based training for pregnant women and their partners via Power Up. Read more about her story below.

Ibu Dewi's team of midwives worked with community health workers and public health bureaucrats from the district Health Office to develop the "26 signs" document, which was very helpful in increasing community-level awareness about maternal and child health, pregnancy planning and childbirth. She said that the most significant change that happened as a result of the Power Up project is that, recently, there have been no cases of women giving birth at home – instead, they’re giving birth at healthcare facilities where risks can be better managed.

This massive shift was only possible because community health workers, or Posyandu cadres, have developed a much deeper understanding of high-risk pregnancy through Power Up, and as a result they have taken an active role in disseminating information about risk factors and warning signs during pregnancy and childbirth. Now community health workers accompany expecting women to regular examinations and provide hospital referrals, when needed.

Community health workers have been discouraging women from giving birth at home due to the high risk of maternal and infant death, which marks a big shift in the approach to birthing in the community. There were a number of initiatives that made this change possible. For instance, each village in West Nusa Tenggara that was involved in the Power Up project allocated budget for maternity classes, enabling midwives to reach out to more pregnant women. Thanks to Power Up, the village administration has been more open and welcoming of midwives, allowing them to plan and coordinate these maternity classes to ensure the quality and accuracy of the information. The three-day-long maternity classes provide pregnant women with information and materials on things like risk, labour preparation and techniques for pushing during labour. On the third day, the women’s partners are required to attend the class, as well so that they can learn and be better prepared for labour.

The ability to disseminate maternal and child health information through technology-based trainings has also played a significant role in these changes. Since early 2019, village midwives have been offering digital trainings on the 26 signs of risk in pregnancy and childbirth to married and pregnant girls and women in the community and, later in 2019, also started training other Posyandu community health workers in their respective villages, which has led to much more extensive public health education and outreach.

Midwives and maternal and child health workers have also created a WhatsApp group together that includes pregnant women, cadres, midwives and nutrition officers. It acts as a forum for information sharing, but it also allows pregnant women in the group to identify, talk about and get support on their pregnancy issues. At the Puskesmas (health clinic), midwives have also started to embrace offering consults by mobile phone and video call.

The use of digital trainings, maternity classes and virtual consultations and information sharing all aim to assist women with childbirth and improve referral processes so that fewer maternal and child health issues fall through the cracks. This work has created better working relationships between and among health workers and midwives, which means a better all-around experience for pregnant women in West Nusa Tenggara.

Explore Further

Learn more about how we did it, and explore how our MEAL approaches and methodologies impacted the outcome.

Learn How We Did This
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