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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My M& E Officer Hat.

This post originally appeared on the Atlas Corps Fellows Blog http://www.atlascorps.org/blog/?p=4969  By Kate Kiama

As I have now finally come to terms with, my job description for my service as a grant trainee manager at a local foundation spans much further than that which was actually articulated to me during my orientation at my host organization early this year. I have come to this bittersweet conclusion because as an active grant manager, one is expected to motivate, inspire, support, encourage, brainstorm, monitor and evaluate, fundraise, connect and offer words of wisdom to a portfolio of grantees. (Among other roles) Often too, grantees just need affirmation that they are on the right track or feel the healthy need to share their frustrations with a willing ear. These many hats that I now wear has been both an art and science in juggling.

As a grant trainee manager, it is understandably expected that I should be a connoisseur in all things M&E.I am further made constantly aware of the nuance’s between different reporting templates and terminology that some of our grantees and other donor agencies use such as impact vis-à-vis goals for instance. My disclaimers is true- I am by no means a guru on monitoring and evaluation especially for non-profits where the grantees goal is almost always chiefly to change social behavior and norms, or to change peoples thinking, attitudes or feelings. In my experience these intangible elements have proven to be the most difficult to measure and I am often left at loggerheads trying to decipher the grantee’s outcomes while reading their reporting tools.
After much research, attending trainings and participating in team sessions on M& E, I have come to the realization that it is not as catastrophic that I am not an M & E expert. However for prudent realization of my terms and conditions as a fellow, I have equipped myself with basic tools to help both the grantor and grantee make sense of the scary world of monitoring and evaluation. First things first, I took extreme pride and delight in acing the PMD Pro- 1 ‘The Essentials of Project Management’ offered by Inside NGO. After having spent most of my adult years in Law school, I needed to (re)-learn a new language comprising of Gantt charts, problem trees and PERT charts. This has significantly helped ensure that the grantees and I are speaking the same language and hopefully from the same script too.

Secondly, I have embarked on collecting routine information and conducting check-in calls to monitor progress of the grants. From this monitoring, it is very clear (mostly in theory) how the program will likely benefit the recipients of the program (evaluation). This collection and reviewing has to be a routine activity for optimum results and for best practice.
Thirdly, especially for grantees in the civil society field, I have realized that the more focused their project objectives and goals are, the better and easier it is for both parties to monitor and evaluate success. A statement such as ‘improve health of all Kenyan children’ for instance, as noble as it sounds; may be a bit problematic to understand the project scope. My newly horned M& E skills will seek a revision of the same after having engaged with the grantee to understand what it is they actually envision and may likely come up with a project goal such as ‘ Improve the health in target communities in Siaya County, Kenya, by reducing the incidence of Malaria. The clearer the project objective is and more focused the better!
Fourthly and finally, for correctly developing indicators in a log frame, be neutral, specific and unambiguous in reporting, begin with a measure and specify one result per indicator. For instance, from the above hypothetical programmatic goal, indicators such as ‘community in need of health care’, and ‘increased number of constituents without Malaria’ are incorrect indicators because they are without a measure and in the second instance are not neutral in terms of what is being achieved. Correct indicators for the same might sound more like ‘Number of constituents   in need of Health Education’ or ‘% of members of the community in need of treated mosquito nets.’ And ‘Number of community members trained’ or number of mosquito nets distributed.’
Two key lessons I have learnt wearing my M& E hat is that if your templates are not clear to you the author; it clearly will be more difficult for outsiders to grasp the same and that the use of ordinary plain use of words goes a long way!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

#Bring Back Our Girls!

On April 14th, Nigerians woke up to news that nearly 300 of our female students in Chibok, a town in North-East Nigeria had been kidnapped by gunmen, now confirmed to be Boko Haram militants.

Who is Boko Haram? 
Boko Haram is an extremist group that was founded sometime in 2002. Although it started out as a local movement, mainly of young disillusioned men, angry at the social inequality and lack of economic prospects in Northern Nigerian, Boko Haram quickly grew to include thousands of followers with strong links to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. It is widely believed that Boko Haram funding comes from Al Qaeda affiliates. 

What are they fighting for?
The general meaning of 'Boko Haram' is 'Western education is forbidden'. As a result, many regard Boko Haram as terrorists fighting against the education of Nigerians, especially girls. The frequent attacks on schools, with the most notable being the recent kidnap of the Chibok girls, bolsters this belief. 
Boko Haram claims to reject Western practices such as democracy, fighting for the Islamic State of Nigeria. It is however important to note that Boko Haram has attacked religious institutions including various Churches and Mosques, targeting priests as well as Islamic clerics. This isn't a war on Christians like the Western media has led many to believe, this is a war on Nigerians, a war on Humanity.

How were the girls abducted?
Many have wondered how nearly 300 girls could be abducted in a region under a state of emergency. (The Federal Government of Nigeria had last year placed 3 states with pronounced insurgency under a state of emergency with increased army surveillance). Where were the soldiers supposed to guard the girls? The questions have largely remained unanswered. What we do know is that over a 100 gunmen attacked the Chibok Government School, looted the school's food supplies, razed the school buildings to the ground, and kidnapped about 286 female students.

Did any of the girls escape?
About 56 of the abducted girls are said to have escaped. Some escaped when one of the trucks broke down after the kidnapping. Some others escaped from the Sambisa forest (Sambisa is said to have been the location of the girls in the days following the attack, it is known to be a Boko Haram stronghold), and yet a few others have said to have been "released" by the terrorists for largely unknown reasons.

What is the fate of the girls currently?
There are unconfirmed reports that many of the girls have been married off to Boko Haram militants in neighboring countries Chad and Cameroon. What we are all sure of is that the girls face extreme dangers that include sex slavery and further human trafficking. Many of the girls that escaped have confirmed reports of grave sexual and physical abuse rampant in Boko Haram quarters. Our girls need to be brought back home now!

What is the Nigerian Government doing?
The Nigerian Government has provided few details so far on its efforts to #Bringourgirlsback. However, in a presidential media chat, the President admitted that he would need "superior intelligence, military equipment and soldiers" from the West while assuring Nigerians that he will bring our girls back soon. The President of the USA, Barack Obama, has responded to calls for help by sending in American experts in intelligence gathering and hostage handling. Britain and China have also offered to support Nigeria with air surveillance and intelligence experts. As of now however, there are no "boots on the ground" but Obama assures Nigerians that if there is need for direct military intervention, America is willing to consider it.

What are Nigerians doing?
Nigerians started the #Bringbackourgirls trend on twitter and continue to stage protest marches all over the world. They are demanding that our leaders be accountable to their electorate. These protest marches are spreading and proving productive as the Nigerian Government has been forced to not only publicly acknowledge the abduction, but share its strategy for getting our girls. Nigerians understand that all parts of the strategy can't be divulged for security reasons, but we still demand to be reassured that the Government is working to bring our girls back. Social media and the offline marches have made our Government reconsider its silent approach that left Nigerians in the dark, hopeless and helpless.

What can YOU do?
We are all one. Demand that your leaders get involved in this conversation. Ask them what they are doing to support the Nigerian government.  Keep this issue alive in your local media- newspapers, blogs, TV, radio, everywhere. Stage solidarity marches. Keep the fire burning online and offline. If it affects one of us, it affects all of us. Don't let this fire die until we #bringbackourgirls. But beyond that, ask them what they are doing to check insecurity in your own countries? Are your borders secure? What are they doing to prevent insurgency? Are there jobs and prospects for young people? Desperation breeds insurgency!

In all we do, we must never lose sight of the fact that Boko Haram is the common enemy. And we must all unite to ensure that not only do we bring back our girls, but we put an end to this reign of terror once and for all. Because there is a bigger picture. We should not treat the #bringbackourgirls campaign in isolation, but we must understand that the terror unleashed by Boko Haram needs to come to an end once and for all! Become a part of the conversation to end terrorism in Nigeria (and Africa) and get your leaders to join in too!