Using evidence-based research to boost gender integration

Thursday December 29 2016

Stella Mukasa, the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) Africa regional director. PHOTO | COURTESY

The International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) launched its Africa regional office in Kampala on December 8. The new regional director, Stella Mukasa, tells Christabel Ligami about her expectations.


What role does the International Centre for Research on Women’s play in Africa?

ICRW is a global applied research institute focused on women and girls. We are in Asia and Africa, and are headquartered in Washington DC. We provide evidence-based research to inform programmes and policies that help alleviate poverty, promote gender equality and protect the rights of women and girls. ICRW’s main mandate is to produce rigorous research that can be put into action to make an impact on women and girls around the world.

Over the past 30 years, our focus in sub-Saharan Africa has been on three main areas: Violence, rights and inclusion; global health, youth and development; and gender, economic empowerment and livelihood.

We work more on women economic empowerment, especially on social enterprise, rights, financial inclusion, women in business and women in agriculture.


Many local and international organisations are doing what you are doing. What is unique about ICRW?

We enhance and strengthen what other organisations are doing on research on women and girls. Our main goal is gender integration. We occupy a special niche because we use evidence-based research.

In which African countries are you working?
We have partners in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Senegal, Rwanda, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Our partners are governments, academic research institutions and civil societies, but they are not permanent. It depends on the project at hand and area of research the organisations want us to assist in. Many of our partners are recommended. It’s a value- and issue- based partnerships.

What informed the decision to open a regional office in Kampala?

Looking at the work we have done over the past years in Africa, East Africa has turned out to be a region where most of our projects on the continent are based. At the moment we have a cohort of 11 partners in the three countries — Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. This is larger than what we have in other regions.

So it made sense to open the office in this region. One of our biggest project in Africa is on violence against women and girls, land and property rights which cuts across the three countries. But Uganda drew a strong attraction for the office because we have done a lot especially on women and HIV and women in leadership.

What do you expect to change now that you have an office in the region?

Nothing much will change. We already have a track record so it will only be leveraging and concentrating more on what we do. It will be more on closeness, especially in the area of evidence-based policy advocacy, the volume of partners in the region will grow, strengthening our capacity for research.

It is more cost-effective now because we are closer to our partners and experts in the region which will strengthen and build local capacity. We are likely to see an increased reliance and value of evidence-informed policies. More so we shall be able to interact more with the women and girls and share experiences and outcomes of our projects. This will strengthen the advocacy and amplify the women voices. But our mission, vision remain the same.

What is the source of your funding?

Forty six per cent of our projects are funded by foundations like Gates, Ford, Rockefeller and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR); Twenty five per cent is provided by the US government and the rest by corporate and private companies.

What have you achieved so far in Africa?

We have established a framework to measure women economic empowerment beyond the bottom line of profits and income they make. This is based on the control they command in their households and the decisions they make.

The inclusion of land property rights in Tanzania’s draft Constitution is also a key achievement. We have strengthened many individual organisations in the areas of women research and capacity-building. Our key mandate is not to implement but to enhance the work of implementing organisations.

What challenges have you experienced with in Africa?

Resources for research in Africa is a big issue. The essence and appreciation of research as a major tool for policy is also a major issue. Private sector investment is larger than donor assistance.

Research in Africa is an expensive exercise and returns are not always as expected so explaining that to donors is difficult.