WINGS presented in NYC and DC: A clearer view of recovery in northern Uganda

altThe Women INcome Generation Support (WINGS) Program, collaboration between AVSI Uganda as implementers and researchers from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) being managed by AVSI-USA, is an innovative 3-year program of economic assistance and social support to 1,500 of the young women who, with their children, were most severely affected by conflict in northern Uganda. Funding is provided by private U.S. donors and by the World Bank.

The program and the results from Phase 1 were featured in two events on March 23 and March 26, by chance falling right in the wake of the Kony 2012 phenomenon which has brought the post-conflict recovery of Northern Ugandans to the center of attention of millions of people.

On March 23 in New York City, AVSI-USA and International Rescue Committee (IRC) co-hosted a presentation at the IRC office for an audience of over 80 researchers, program managers of New York based NGOs and others.  Under the title "Maximizing Program Impact in Post-Conflict Zones: Investing in Women's Empowerment," the WINGS Program was presented along with the IRC’s EA$E program in Burundi, which is similar to WINGS in that it targets women in post-conflict settings and includes an impact evaluation.

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The WINGS programming and research was presented by Francesca Oliva, AVSI Program Manager, and Chris Blattman, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator with IPA and Assistant Professor at Yale University. Key lessons from EA$E were shared by two members of IRC’s Women’s Protection and Empowerment Unit, Bersabeh Beyene, Economic Specialist,  and Heidi Lehmann, Director. The discussion was moderated by Jeannie Annan, Director of Research, Evaluation and Learning at IRC.

Download the NYC event flyer 

 

In Washington, DC, on March 26, AVSI-USA and IPA co-sponsored a presentation hosted by the International Development Program of Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) which dug deeper into the details of the WINGS program, including the local context, program design, preliminary research results, challenges and key lessons and successes. Oliva was joined by John Makoha, AVSI Country Representative for Uganda, as well as IPA affiliates Julian Jamison, PhD, Senior Economist in the Center for Behavioral Economics at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Eric Green, PhD, Associate at the Population Council.

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An audience of around 60, including professors and students of SAIS and other Washington, DC, universities and staff members of local NGOs, of USAID, the World Bank and other institutions, asked many questions at the end of the panel addressing topics such as how to adapt instruments for monitoring and evaluation, dealing with local corruption surrounding development projects and the question of finding funding for long-term evaluations to determine what methods are most effective.

A policy paper is still in the process of development based on preliminary results.

Download the DC event flyer

View the AVSI Powerpoint presentation

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Read more:

Download the publication of the WINGS project

AVSI in Uganda

 

altThe purpose of the WINGS study is to understand precisely what kind of post‐conflict aid works in the sector of economic strenghthening and psychosocial recovery, how much, and why. While it is attractive to envision the range of possible benefits of a start‐up grant and basic business training for young women stuck in low‐capital intensive, low‐skill activities, the reality of helping these women in a significant way along their personal path towards a better life is not so straightforward. Concretely, questions that have arisen which Phase 2 research will aim to answer are:

  • Does greater financial stability and opportunities for work improve one’s outlook on life, or not?

  • Can there ever be a clear “best practice” in terms of individual versus group interventions?

  • Should women’s empowerment actually come through approaches that seek to strengthen couples and families, rather than invest solely in women?


 

Background and Brief on Phase 1 Results

The project came out from previous programmatic experience of AVSI (www.avsi.org and www.avsiusa.org ) in Uganda with the target population, together with reflection on the results of the Survey of War Affected Youth (SWAY) conducted by the research team with support from AVSI.

In northern Uganda, a region devastated by 20 years of war, the women and children at the bottom of the social and economic ladder live in some of the direst circumstances in the world. New research and two decades of program experience in Uganda suggest that, with a helping hand, these women and children are capable of developing sustainable livelihoods and raising their families’ levels of health and education. Recent experience shows that a combination of basic skills training, start‐up capital, and group networks can powerfully contribute to the economic recovery and social empowerment of women affected by armed conflict, including spillovers into the well‐being of their children, families and community. Through a combined effort of program implementers and researchers from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA www.poverty‐action.org), this program will result in reliable evidence of theimpact of individual program components on the well‐being of the most vulnerable young women and will promote evidenced‐based humanitarian aid in Uganda and beyond.

The program aims to reduce poverty, increase women’s empowerment, and improve the psychological health and social integration of program participants. To do so, the program provides beneficiaries with business skills training, a grant of approximately $150, and follow‐up support through home visits.

The impact evaluation, utilizing a randomized control trial methodology, has produced results for the first phase of the program (2009‐2010). During Phase 1, the evaluation tested a cross‐cutting design to featuring encouragement of groups among beneficiaries to test whether enhanced social capital would affect the impact of the basic business skills training and cash grant.

The first level of analysis of this data has been completed. Key findings are:

-        on average, beneficiaries’ cash incomes double relative to the control group. Provisional consumption levels improve by 39%. And beneficiaries have more than three times the savings of the control group.
-         in spite of these economic gains, little impact on empowerment, psychological well‐being, or social integration is seen. Or, rather, women report both higher levels of community hostility and higher levels of support, probably reflecting a conflicted community response to their support and success.
-        Half of the beneficiaries were encouraged to meet regularly in groups and exchange information and support one another; this process was supported by a group dynamics training. This encouragement led to a large increase in group interaction; this sub‐group also showed a large increase in income yet the exact correlation is unclear.

Phase 2 of WINGS is currently underway (2011‐2012) with two tests imbedded into the study. The first cross‐cutting design will respond to the question: does an overly “female‐focused” framing of the program actually undermine women’s empowerment? The second cross‐cutting design will address the question: what is the marginal impact of ongoing advising and accountability in business success?