The buzz in the room was overwhelming. It was the dreaded 14h00 graveyard session of a late November workshop for the evaluation of the Older Persons’ Act. I was astounded by the energy and enthusiasm of the discussion. They just could not stop talking, and if I allowed them, they would have continued for an hour. I asked them a simple question: “Tell the person next to you what you would like to achieve or do before you turn 60” – the Bucket List.
Getting ready for fun in the sun
This workshop had to take place before the South-African December shut-down. Fun in the sun, beach sand between the toes, the smells and sounds of a leisurely bushveld braai at sunset – this is what the holiday season is about for many South Africans. A well-deserved rest, catching up with friends, doing the things you didn’t have time for during the year.
December is also the month of 16 days of no violence against women and children. The shocking statistics (1 in 3 South African children experience some form of sexual abuse by the time they are 17) pierce the exuberance of the lighthearted holiday spirit, warmth of family reunions, and noisy late-night parties. Rightly so, we are horrified when we hear about violence against children and women.
Women over 49 are invisible
The picture most of us have in our heads about violence against women is of a younger woman. In reality violence against women (VAW) does not stop at age 49. Why 49? Most studies and statistics on VAW focus on the 15 to 49 age group. This means that, in many cases, there simply is no data on the abuse of “older” women. Effectively this makes VAW for older women invisible, as if it does not exist.
In South Africa, 60 is the age where you become an “older person”. Concern with elder abuse has been highlighted globally, yet only 17% of 133 countries collect data on elder abuse. This is particularly troublesome, when one considers the trend in some countries that older women are more prone to all abuse, including sexual abuse, because of their increased vulnerability.
Under apartheid the majority was alienated
We are easily, and rightly so, outraged by sexual abuse, because it is an intimate form of violence, and a serious infringement of human rights, which often has deep and long-lasting devastating impact on an individual. For older persons, sexual abuse is only one form of abuse that they are subjected to. Depending on the source, there are five to ten forms of elder abuse, some which are very overt, and others which are deceptively subtle – all of which violate their human rights.
Treating a person, or for that matter an entire group of persons, as if they do not exist, is a human rights infringement. This is in effect what Apartheid inflicted on the majority of the population, and today we recognize that the alienation of the majority through the apartheid system was intolerable and inexcusable.
Be kind to an “alien”
Why then, are many of us dispassionate when older persons are ignored, overlooked and depersonalized? Often, in the festive season, the loneliness and isolation of older persons are even more pronounced than during the course of the year. Tucked away in their homes and care facilities, they are forgotten. Alienated in an impatient, fast-changing, youth-obsessed world.
The festive season is a good time to be kind to an older person. Random kindness is in order if you have no older person in your immediate circle. Neuroscience tells us that people thrive when they are “seen, heard and loved”. Take a few moments, smile, talk to an older person. Be interested, ask them about their life, their needs. Help where you can, and make sure that they know they matter. You may be surprised at what you will get out of this engagement.
And remember, you too are approaching the 60-mark, and faster than you can imagine – so make that Bucket List!
Earlier this month, our team facilitated the first session of our new training workshop series, Evaluation Innovations in Practice.
The session, titled Creative Qualitative Data Collection Tools, brought together 20 participants from government departments, NGOs and M&E consultants, which resulted in rich conversations about creative ways to collect data to inform purposeful development.
Held in Upper Woodstock, the workshop provided attendees with information, examples and practical experiences of the value of qualitative data, the limitations of traditional qualitative data collection tools, and the potential of creative data collection tools.
The workshop balanced theoretical discussions with practical, hands-on application of creative data collection tools, such as mind mapping, transect walks and community-mapping activities. Attendees were provided with the opportunity to generate new ideas and share challenges, experiences and best practices in terms of collecting data in the development sector.
“I enjoyed the practical activities as they provided a platform to implement theoretical learnings.” – Workshop attendee
Attendees gained a different, more creative view about qualitative data collection. A key outcome of the workshop was leaving the attendees with new insights about the ways in which creative data collection can add to designing and evaluating development programmes that already have a strong quantitative focus.
We are committed to help strengthen our country and achieve the vision of the National Department of Planning Monitoring & Evaluation which states “strive for continuous improvement in service delivery through performance monitoring and evaluation”.
As such, M&E capacity building workshops, and skilled and experienced evaluation professionals are critical in establishing whether public and private-funded development programmes are effectively meeting critical development challenges.
“The value of using creative methods spans from enhancing participation (particularly when sensitive issues or vulnerable populations are involved), to facilitating the dissemination of research findings,” says Barbara Torresi, Senior Researcher at Creative Consulting & Development Works.
Keep an eye out for our workshop schedule in 2017, with exciting offerings in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town for managers, consultants, government departments and NGOs.
It was mid-November and Gauteng has been declared a disaster area. Heavy rains and flash floods in the preceding week had created chaos, loss of life and extensive damage to property and infrastructure. Amidst the horrific reports of children swept away by the floods and families tirelessly searching for missing loved ones, one story went viral. It is the story of the human chain – a group of South Africans risked their lives to form a human chain to help stranded motorists in Johannesburg.
In this crisis, they just did what they had to do. There was no time to think twice. No time to think about what usually divides us – class, race, gender, historical injustice… They were in the moment, they were alive with possibility and they made the impossible happen.
This remarkable display of humanity, compassion and taking ownership of a solution went viral within a few days – the video of it soon had more than 370,000 views. The comments that streamed in showered praise and showed pride in this demonstration of what South Africans are capable of. In a way, this video is a glimpse of what is possible. It inspired messages of hope for the future and calls to stand together as a nation.
A month before the floods, the Zenex Foundation hosted the “Conversations with Zenex Trustees” reflecting on partnerships in education. This event was another example of people coming together across boundaries, to collaborate for the greater good of the country. This time it was about education. The event was a panel discussion facilitated by social commentator and talk show host, Eusebius McKaiser.
What emerged in this discussion was in sharp contrast with the often violent protests and destruction of property on campuses across the country at the time. A key theme in this discussion was: “If we do not waste the crisis, there is an opportunity for partnerships.” From this perspective, the current crisis in tertiary education is an opportunity for government to think differently about education, like a flash flood was an opportunity for people to connect and help a stranger.
The Zenex Foundation has chosen a path of robust but constructive engagement with government regarding the improvement of education in the country. It is evident that the relationship with government, and particularly the education department is a healthy adult-to-adult relationship where the partners do not always agree, but continue to engage and work together. One of the panelists described the Zenex Foundation as “a critical friend”.
Various speakers emphasized the importance of active citizenship, of holding government accountable and to work with government to overcome the immense challenges in education.
One can only hope that there are enough inspirational stories to keep hope up in difficult times, and to motivate us to create our own stories of engagement, creating new and better outcomes that serve the interests of the country as a whole.
Each day presents us with many opportunities to engage either in connecting or separating behaviour. Let us make the best possible use of these opportunities to connect, build cohesion and strength. Ultimately, it is us, the ordinary citizens of this country, who have to stand up where we are and start to create the future that we aspire to.
Collecting fieldwork data has its challenges. Regardless of the context there is much logistical and technical work that goes into preparing and carrying out the task. To ensure successful and quality data collection it’s important that fieldworkers understand and are aware of the culture and tradition of the area where they will be working.
Creative Consulting & Development Works (CC&DW) ensures our fieldworkers understand and are aware of the local community dynamics. The importance of this came to light in recent fieldwork in northern KwaZulu-Natal where certain social aspects could have proved challenging.
The first hurdle was talking to parents of schoolchildren. It was crucial to use correct language. The local school facilitators advised CC&DW beforehand that some people, particularly grandmothers and grandfathers, might see certain words as offensive and disrespectful. Our study included topics about sex and sexual behavior and these are often not discussed between parents and children. Some of these words and conversations are viewed as ‘promiscuous’ conversation.
So fieldworkers faced the challenge of having to carefully maneuver their language when seeking the consent of the parents for participation in this research study. We made sure we conveyed everything about the study to parents. Our team used respectable language to avoid sounding like we would be exposing their children to adult themes.
The second possible hurdle was dress code, a very important issue for this community. Fieldworkers chose their clothes carefully for house visits, and always removed beanies or caps when speaking to elders.
These are just two of the very important issues to be cognisant of when engaging with communities. Its necessary for teams to familiarize themselves with such sensitivies and cultural factors before undertaking fieldwork.
Backgrouond research should be done in the exact community that the fieldwork will be conducted in. South African communities are not homogenous and it’s possible that similar communities might speak the same language but have completely different cultural practices.
The research should also be done by someone who understands the dominant language of a particular community. Most people feel more comfortable and open up when speaking to someone in their first language.
The importance of cultural sensitivity cannot be underestimated in any data collection scenario.
Innovative workshop series in Cape Town for development practitioners, researchers, evaluators, consultants, government officials, and emerging evaluators.