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Learning to Link: Evaluation of the Women Connect! Project of Pacific Institute for Women's Health
Gender Links
October 31, 2001

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Executive Summary

This report presents the findings of an evaluation of Women Connect, a project of the Pacific Institute for Women’s Health (PIWH) undertaken between August and November 2001. The project aimed to bring greater empowerment of women through the effective use of communication strategies in media and technology to improve women’s health and well- being. Working with 26 NGOs in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Uganda, a project management team in Los Angeles, together with African technical resource persons in each country, sought to achieve its objectives through skills building workshops, site visits, a small grant project, referrals of sources of communication hardware and software, referrals to donor organisations, professional and development opportunities. The University of Southern California’s Annenberg Centre matched a small grant from the Wallace Fund to provide seed money for the project, while the William H. Gates Foundation provided the bulk of the funding over three years. The Scope of Work of the Evaluation is attached at Annex A.

The evaluation consisted of:

  • A desk top review of project documentation, including a situation analysis of each country, NGO baseline assessments, workshop evaluations, project proposals, mid term and final reports by project partners and local consultants, reports of field visits and the mid term evaluation by the Women Connect project management team as well as the two Women Connect reports to the William H Gates Foundation.
  • A meeting with the project team in Los Angeles in July 2001 where it was agreed that the evaluation would primarily be qualitative in nature.
  • Agreement with the Women Connect project team on the checklist attached at Annex B to guide the interviews with project partners.
  • On-site interviews with all project partners and local consultants from mid September to early October (see schedule of interviews at Annex C). In most cases, the interviews included the director, information officer and or other programme managers. In Zambia and Uganda, representatives of project partners also met as a group towards the end of the evaluation mission.
  • Written feedback to the Women Connect project team after each visit, to clarify factual issues and share initial findings.
  • Work with three groups- the Zimbabwe Women’s Bureau (ZWB), Zambia Association for Research and Development (ZARD) and Ugandan Media Women’s Association (UMWA), selected by Women Connect to document their experiences as case studies.
  • Submission of a final draft in November 2001.

Key findings
The key findings may be summarized as follows:

  • Immediate outcomes: Women Connect yielded a number of immediate, tangible benefits. Contrary to what might be expected, few donors fund ITrelated projects. As a result of Women Connect, nine organisations that did not have E Mail or Internet access became connected; two organisations (in Zimbabwe and Zambia) set up Internet cafes; three organisations established web sites; nine organisations repackaged information from the Internet; eight organisations conducted campaigns on reproductive health, domestic violence, HIV AIDS, women in decision- making, gender stereotypes as well as women and the law. Two organisations produced calendars. Other produced stickers, posters, flyers and information sheets.
  • Potential for impact: Intended as pilots, the projects also opened many possibilities for the future. Project partners are now more keenly aware of the need to formulate communications strategies and to be aware of communications in all their work. They understand better the multiple possible applications of information technology, and the need to be careful in making choices. The campaigns related to health and well- being have demonstrated the complexity of these issues and the need for sustained strategies. Stopping teenage pregnancies, for example, is a multifaceted campaign that can only just be started in one year.
  • Exemplary management: Closely supervised by a skilled and dedicated management team on site as well as from the PIWH headquarters in Los Angeles, the project delivered most of its intended benefits on time and on budget.
  • Use of funds: Although the evaluator did not conduct a financial audit of the project, the tangible outcomes, visits and enquiries leave little doubt that all moneys were spent scrupulously on intended outcomes.
  • Continuity: The link that Women Connect made with the Global Fund for Women (GFW) has provided the opportunity for many of the projects to continue, although ideally this should have been factored in at the start.
  • Capacity building: The training workshops, on site and on line technical support have helped to build skills among project partners, although staff- turn over of about 33 percent limited the immediate benefits to the organization.
  • Focus: Women Connect confronted the dilemma in this project of allowing grantees to choose what they wanted to do versus ensuring coherence and focus. The advantage of the former is that it gives grantees greater sense of ownership. The disadvantage is that the portfolio of projects runs the risk of being so diffuse as to lose impact. Although the project management team made an admirable effort to keep projects within manageable limits, the evaluator is of the view that the project design itself gave grantees too much leeway by allowing them to: a) choose between complex social campaigns, that are difficult to achieve in one year, and relatively straightforward connectivity projects b) defining health and well being so broadly as to include a vast range of projects, some of which failed to demonstrate a direct link to women’s health and well being c) advising, but not insisting on collaborative efforts through funding mechanisms.
  • Impact: The broad focus, limited time period, and the fact that the projects were intended as pilots, makes it difficult to measure impact so soon after the completion of the projects.

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