Understanding child poverty: The application of qualitative research methods to policy analysis

Type Report
Title Understanding child poverty: The application of qualitative research methods to policy analysis
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
Page numbers 0-0
Publisher Lusaka: UNICEF Zambia
URL http://sites.google.com/site/childpovnetwork/UNICEF-ChildpovertyinZambia.doc

In 2008, UNICEF Zambia supported the national Government to conduct the periodic situation analysis of children and women. The purpose of the analysis is to provide a thorough human rights based analysis of the trajectory, causes and status of children and women, sufficient to guide national efforts to improve results for children, and UNICEF support to this end.

Despite apparently good analysis and relevant programming in the past, results in Zambia have been somewhat disappointing. For this reason, it was decided to use an open ended qualitative assessment as a tool for reflecting on or interpreting the more standard research components of the exercise, seeking insight into the persistence of poverty amongst children and women in particular.

The development of research methods and conduct of this exercise required considerable skill, as the sociological-based findings needed strong credibility to be acceptable as a tool for interpreting quantitative and sector-based research and analysis. The qualitative research team conducted a systematic but open-ended research exercise in communities in seventeen districts of Zambia. The team explored range of research questions oriented towards investigation of how children and women understand their own situation and status, its causes and consequences, their understanding of well-being, and desires and prospects for change.

The results show that the causes of entrenched vulnerability and deprivation at household and community level also create a range of conditions in human and social capacities that, unless addressed, undermine prospects for the success of sector-based service delivery. These include not just the commonly discussed issues of human capital, but also the impact of prolonged loss of agency, disempowerment, exclusion and stress on the success of efforts to support improvements for children.

The study had a substantial impact on the development of the final situation analysis of children and women in Zambia. Significantly, it supported recommendations on how things need to be done differently or addition to current efforts, addressing social and institutional factors that account for the persistence of negative outcomes and rights failures even in the context of efforts to address them. The paper provides three specific examples of how the qualitative research component has added valuable insight to the situation analysis, and led to agreement around policy change to accelerate results for children.

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