Using a social-anthropological approach to analyse contexts
Groupe URD recently hired Florence Chatot as a Researcher and Social Anthropology Focal Point. Social-anthropological assessments are essential to understand the complex and changing contexts in which many projects are implemented, and she will therefore be able to contribute to our studies and evaluations.
Two initial studies are being carried out in Chad, to analyse the social determinants that influence access to reproductive healthcare, and those that influence the continued practice of female genital mutilation. It is also from this angle that research will be carried out in the four countries of the Lake Chad Basin, coordinated by Groupe URD, as part of the RESILAC project. It will aim to identify endogenous prevention, mediation and conflict resolution mechanisms, and how these have been impacted – or not – by current conflict dynamics. The study, which is due to begin at the end of January 2020, will be conducted in collaboration with a team of national academics, and will apply a social-anthropological research approach that will make it possible both to understand the complexity of the situation at the regional level, and to explain it at the local and territorial level.
The objectives of the ‘PASFASS’ project for the social empowerment of Chadian women
Chad is a low income country near the bottom of the Human Development Index (183rd out of 190 in 2016). Its population is primarily young (50.6% of the population is under 15 years of age) and rural (75.7%), and women represent a little over half of the population (50.6%).
The Chadian health system, and particularly its Maternal Reproductive, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health component, has many weaknesses. This is partly linked to (a) structural difficulties (staff numbers, staff competencies, facilities, consumables, etc.); and partly to (b) the lack of compatibility between the healthcare available and the needs that exist due to a lack of understanding of the derminants behind demand for reproductive healthcare.
It is in this context that CARE, BASE and Groupe URD are implementing a project that aims to promote the social empowerment of Chadian women via better access to health and family planning services, and by addressing gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation.
More specifically, it aims to:
- Promote demand for Maternal Reproductive, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and family planning services, and raise awareness about gender-based violence by improving family practices and a community-based approach;
- Improve the living conditions of women and girls in particular through access to quality healthcare, improved prevention and increased response to cases of gender-based violence;
- Improve understanding of the social determinants that influence access to Maternal Reproductive, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Healthcare in the Mandoul and Logone Occidental regions of Chad.
Groupe URD is conducting studies in connection with this project to help the stakeholders involved (particularly field staff, practitioners and the health authorities) improve their understanding of the socio-economic factors that have a significant impact on access to Maternal Reproductive, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Healthcare.
Two initial social-anthropological studies to improve understanding of the context
Analysis of the social forces that influence access to reproductive healthcare in the Logone Oriental and Mandoul regions of Chad
The social-anthropological approach aims to identify social factors that influence whether reproductive healthcare is used and describe the practices and perceptions that the users have vis-à-vis these services. As the project aims to empower Chadian women through improved access to Maternal Reproductive, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Healthcare and Family Planning services, it is necessary to understand the social determinants that can favour or limit beneficiaries’ involvement in the activities implemented for them.
At the community or village level, people’s views are not always consensual as they can be influenced by different and sometimes contradictory ideas. These contradictions and differences within a social group, whether this is a village, a religious community, a school or a family, need to be identified and understood as contextual components of the project. Though the project is partly based on collective action at the village level (village associations, women’s groups, for example), other forms of tension and competition that co-exist within these groups should not be underestimated.
The aim will therefore be to understand the importance of social barriers (age, sex, social class), or identity-based or ethnic barriers which are relevant to access to reproductive healthcare, and to identify the risks that these could represent in terms of the project results.
Analysis of social determinants that influence the continued practice of Female Genital Mutilation
In Chad, 38.4% of women aged between 15 and 49 years old are victims of female genital mutilation (FGM). Though descriptive data provides essential information about the extent of this practice in Chad, it does not explain the reasons why it persists, nor the social and symbolic function that it serves within the family and community.
The aim of the study is therefore to help actors involved in the project to improve their understanding of the social, economic and legislative factors that influence why FGM continues to be practiced in the Mandoul region. One of the aims will be to understand the social and symbolic function of female genital mutilation within the construction of female identity, to review current norms and popular justifications for FGM, to analyse whether sanctions have had an effect on the practice, and to review the characteristics that contribute to the continued practice of FGM, whether geographic (urban/rural), social (age, sex, social class), identity-based or ethnic.