External evaluation of the East African Program for the Empowerment of Grassroots Women (EAGWEN)

Published:January 2013 by Forum for Women and Development (FOKUS)
Commissioned by:Forum for Women and Development (FOKUS)
Carried out by:Nordic Consulting Group, DK: Santa Vusia, Kirza Kristensen
Tags:Uganda, Kenya, Civil society

Summary

Background:
NWF has a history of supporting organisations whose main focus is on vulnerable groups. With its prior linkage to COWA and GADECE and a preference by FOKUS for a programme approach, the EAGWEN programme was developed by NWF and its partners in Uganda and Kenya in 2009 with a common goal of empowering rural and urban grass-root women and young girls through networking and alliance building, community mobilisation, awareness raising, advocacy and capacity strengthening. The programme focuses on skills, knowledge and attitudes, capacity building and strengthening of partnership amongst the East African women organisations accessing FOKUS funds through the NWF.

Within the EAGWEN programme, each of the organisations addresses issues within its comparative advantage but then takes on other issues that are of relevance to their beneficiary or target groups. The partners under the EAGWEN programme under ‘normal’ circumstances would not have had the opportunity to work with each other despite possible synergies.

Purpose/objective:
FOKUS called for the present external evaluation of the programme in order to provide all stakeholders with an assessment of the extent to which the objectives of the joint program have been achieved. In addition, the results of the projects of UMWA and MAFA were evaluated in order to inform future program development and explore opportunities to support sustainability of the programme and benefits derived from the partnerships.

Methodology:
The approach of the Evaluation Team (ET) focussed on the standard elements of evaluation, specifically, an analysis of the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability, added value and lessons as well as recommendations to the different partners of EAGWEN, individually and collectively.

The methodology was participatory, achieved through discussion with the grassroots women, staff of partner organisations and with alumni and other stakeholders. The ET held discussions with GADECE which is currently out of the partnership. The consultations was through beneficiary groups and staff mobilised by the partner organisations for focus group discussions (FGD); individual interviews directly and through telephone and Skype. Attempts were made to follow up individuals for in depth case studies, by requesting the partner organisations to identify specific categories to participate.

The FGDs enabled the team to check knowledge, information and determine the experiences of the group members. It enabled observation of the reactions and attitudes of the group members. Similar benefits were acquired from key informant interviews and paired discussions with some beneficiaries and with staff. This was the case for all the three Ugandan based partners, while for the Kenyan partner GADECE, the team was able to hold a ‘group’ and individual interviews on telephone.

Review of documentation was an important aspect, to provide insight into the rules and systems guiding business in the organisations and to confirm the programme parameters.

Key findings:
The programme has done commendable work in three years; it has delivered institutional and capacity development benefits to its members and their beneficiaries, addressed information needs of both the organisations and their clientele in addition to that of the partnership. Practices such as the sharing of information, exchange visits, grassroots level implementation mechanisms that access network information, outreach to communities through field reporters were important elements of the achievement of results.

The partners reached out to a variety of people to provide information, sensitisation and skills development to improve opportunities and status of ‘grassroots’ women and contributed to the achievement of the programme objectives.

The EAGWEN programme is designed to address the issues of the beneficiaries holistically by tagging or mainstreaming them within the projects of all the network members and utilising opportunities provided by one organisation to enhance the overall objectives in the other, across all the organisations. Thus the partners undertake joint planning, showcase and share information and work with each other on issues of human rights, domestic violence, economic empowerment and entrepreneurship, utilising opportunities like free space on Mama FM, a shared GWEN newsletter, exchange visits and staff development through sharing of technical knowledge and skills. Several positive outcomes have been attained as a result.

The EAGWEN programme has achieved on a number of fronts and made progress on all the indicators. This is evident in the planned activities implemented and the results shown, though attribution to specific programme or project activities is sometimes difficult. Specifically for the beneficiaries of MAFA, there is economic activity amongst the women, evidence of kitchen gardens and acknowledgement of food security and improved nutrition amongst the women. Some women valued changes such as less dependence on spouses economically and in management of their affairs, simple but significant personal changes e.g. capacity to save and make meaningful investments of their income. There was less direct discussion by the beneficiaries linked to leadership, overall decision making and changes in observation of property rights, currently threatened by increasing land sales in the area and economic hardships faced by the families. Capacity building for staff of all the partner organisations is generally pointed to. A few case studies also indicated real change in the lives of beneficiaries /alumni for all partners, COWA, MAFA and UMWA.

While good results were achieved, as observed in reporting where some planned numbers were surpassed, effectiveness also requires engagement with some of the challenges as a means to addressing them. There are gaps in terms of measurement of the results and of processes /weaknesses in monitoring, part of which can be attributed to staff capacity, in terms of time, numbers and ‘skills match’ to the required programme demands.

Regarding the added value of NWF, some of these highlights include bringing together the partners; sharing of expertise, technical advice in project preparation, application, reporting, budgeting and accounting; linkages, mentoring and support to improvement of systems amongst the partners, friendship, overseeing of financial matters, creation of a forum for sharing of information and expertise and identification and facilitation of partners’ participation in other international forums.

Main recommendations:
-   It is recommended to develop a light strategic plan of the network and define the goals and objectives of the network and how they intend to get there.
-  The roles and responsibilities of the partners in the network should be spelled out in a MoU to level out expectations as to roles and responsibilities.
-  EAGWEN and partners should work towards strengthening their M&E processes and frameworks. The indicators should preferably be at outcome levels or at least output level. Training in M & E should be part of the joint training for partner staff under the EAGWEN.
-  It is recommended that NWF and partners put more emphasis on sustainability and phasing out strategies. Partners should seek additional ways to sustain their activities in order for them not to solely rely on support from NWF/FOKUS.

Comments from the organisation, if any:

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