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to Link: Evaluation of the Women Connect! Project of Pacific Institute
for Women's Health
October 31, 2001
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This report presents the findings of an evaluation of Women Connect,
a project of the Pacific Institute for Womens 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 womens
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 Californias
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.
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
- 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 Womens Bureau (ZWB), Zambia Association
for Research and Development (ZARD) and Ugandan Media Womens
Association (UMWA), selected by Women Connect to document their
experiences as case studies.
of a final draft in November 2001.
The key findings may be summarized as follows:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 womens health
and well being c) advising, but not insisting on collaborative
efforts through funding mechanisms.
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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