ok, i am receiving requests from all corners to get more specific about my work. those who have heard bits and pieces seem intrigued, those who have no idea, are down right confused about what i am doing in Bangalore.
so in an effort to bring everyone up to speed, i thought i would update on how the work is turning. you may remember that i knew that my work would be a bit unpredictable before i arrived in india. but a month or so into my time here, the shape of work became more defined.
Needless to say, things have changed again, but taken a turn for the better, in my estimation. so let me back up and give some deets. (at the risk of sounding like i am sharing my work plan with you)
Essentially i am either supporting or coordinating efforts towards four different studies or projects. they are all addressing gender-based violence but come at the issue from very different angles. here goes:
1. I am spending most of my time right now on supporting the implementation and evaluation of an intervention with young couples in Kanakapura District. This is a peri-urban part of Bangalore, that is it is technically part of Bangalore city but is fairly rural in most ways. So this is project is a series of workshops with young married couples, that is married between 2 and 10 years. The men range in age from 25-33 and the women are between 20 and 27. These workshops cover communication, joint-decision making, sexual and reproductive health and some more complex conversations about gender and masculinity and power in the relationships.
The idea is for these workshops to catalyze a process between the husbands and wives by which conflicts can be resolved with mutual respect rather than exploding into potentially violent situations. The couples chosen are anyway low risk for violence, but building skills around communication and negotiation is revealing itself to be a really ground breaking opportunity in the lives of these participants. much of the feedback we have been getting is about how most of them had never had the opportunity to talk so frankly about sex and sexuality and struggles in their relationships. and more importantly, that these conversations are shifting the way they engage with each other at home.
2. The second project that I am working on designing and launching is with young men in the same communities that the larger health study has been focusing on. these are more urban low income neighborhoods in north Bangalore. The focus of my work so far has been 1) studying other male engagement programs in India and around the world to understand the best approaches and 2) building a strong team of male outreach workers to be able to do the community organizing necessary. So this is still in the stage of meeting and drafting job descriptions and other administrative tasks, but it is an exciting concept. The idea comes directly out of the health study which has shown in its preliminary results that the knowledge attitudes and behaviors of men greatly impact women's health-seeking behavior as well as health outcomes. So if men are reached at an early age with information and training on health, sex, sexuality and healthy relationships, then by the time they are married and negotiating life with a partner, their approach will be more gender equitable. These are the hypotheses, in a manner of speaking, so lets see what comes of them.
3. The third project is called the Bangalore Healthy Urbanization Project and is a collaboration with the Bangalore Municipal Corporation. Conceived of by the WHO Kobe Center, this city-wide project seeks to explore the social determinants of health. The some concept is also being implemented in five other cities around the world. So there are seven sites around the city that have taken up different issues and aspects of health - ours is the Robertson Road Area of Bangalore and we are focusing on addressing violence against women through creating enabling environments for early detection of violence and safe reporting.
This means working with health care providers and the local police force to build their capacity around addressing gender-based violence sensitively and effectively. The idea is to have trainings and workshops with doctors and other health center staff as well as with constables and sub-inspectors at the local police station. In addition the plan is to have community education for women and girls about the facilities available at these institution and the value in talking with health care providers about violence they might experience.
Whether this project actually happens or not is still up in the air. there are always a lot of politics when it comes to working with the government so we are still trying to sift through it all. no love lost, if it doesn't pan out. honestly.
4. Finally, phase three of the Samata Health Study is the qualitative phase where a subset of the survey respondents are asked to participate in in-depth interviews and some focus groups are held. In addition we will be beginning the formative phase of the follow up study on health care providers and their strategies and responses to gender-based violence in their patient population. My role in this has been limited so far, just helping get the study protocol prepared and submitted to the ethical review board and such. But soon the interviews with doctors will begin and I will be involved in that as well as in preparing the grant for this phase of the research.
Sometimes I freak out at all the work that has to be completed in the next 8-9 months. But then i remember all the amazing people i work with and know that this is not a solo adventure, so many thoughtful and committed individuals have invested their energy into keeping this study moving and true to ethical principles at every turn. it is really inspiring to work with and among them.
The most exciting thing for me, is that, for the first time in my career, all of the projects (with the exception of the WHO project) we are implementing or designing are evidenced based, meaning they emerge from the study that we have been conducting. These are not simply theoretical experiments. They are based on the results of rigorous research and the ideas have emerged organically from the interpretation of these results. that is a satisfying experience. i feel lucky to be part of it.