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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The issue with English

by Marium Ibrahim

The majority of the world's population does not speak English, but it is still seen as the global language.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, 2009

Education systems that focus on one language as the medium of instruction bring up questions of educational equity. Most countries use English as the primary medium of education, raising questions of who has access to this “global” education and who does not.

Many people, especially in developing countries, view learning English as the path to success, and a way to compete in the global economy. People also tend to equate language with intelligence, implying that people who do not have the opportunity to learn English are not as “intelligent” as people who can speak the language fluently. This is why many people advocate for English as the primary language of instruction.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Pakistan’s jirgas: buying peace at the expense of women’s rights?

by Ayesha Khan

A jirga in Afghanistan. Such systems are a commonplace dispute resolution mechanism in Pakistan as well.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

It has taken nine military operations since 2002 to clear Pakistan’s frontier and tribal areas from Taliban, and millions of people have been displaced from their homes, some more than once. Pakistanis have paid a high price for allowing religious extremism to grow on their soil. Between 2003-17 over 21,000 civilians, and even more militants, have been killed.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Connecting research to ongoing debates

by Saba Aslam

Women picking vegetables in Mirpurkhas
Photo credit: Collective team

Agricultural work in Pakistan is becoming feminised and accounts for more than 70 per cent in the work force. How well is women’s agricultural work is recognised amongst the policy makers of the country is still unclear, but it is a key area of interest for researchers in understanding the linkages between women’s agricultural work and their health outcomes.

Friday, 30 June 2017

What leads to behavioural change amongst rural women?

by Hussain Bux Mallah

Change isn't always as easy as is implied by this graffiti.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Behavioural change theorists argue that individual or community behaviour is embedded in complex cultural norms. Therefore, changes cannot occur in a straightforward manner.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Patriarchy: No silver lining

by Sidra Mazhar

Even in a war, a woman's contribution has it' place- in the kitchen.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

At the “International Conference on Gender, Work and Society” held on April 22nd – 23rd, 2017, the keynote speaker, Dr. Edwina Pio, spoke about how patriarchy can sometimes be beneficial for society. She gave the example of a woman opening her own business and seeking help from her husband in managing its finances. She was perhaps implying that a woman asking a man for help supports patriarchal norms, since it puts a man in a position of authority; but that accepting, or even utilizing, this unequal power relationship can help the woman.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Beyond a shared language

by Saba Aslam



World War I era poster in Yiddish to encourage food conservation. Caption (translated) "Food will win the war - You came here seeking freedom, now you must help to preserve it - Wheat is needed for the allies - waste nothing."
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

As social science researchers, we have to routinely work across language barriers with our respondents.

It is highly likely that the native language of a researcher (Urdu in my case) may be different from the respondents’. Great care is taken to simplify questionnaires so that they can be translated into the local language with minimal difficulty. The hiring of translators is also considered to be a high priority task in the research process and their proficiency in the local language is a deciding factor. Effective translation can play an important role in mitigating the language barrier between a researcher and a respondent. For this to happen, a translator should be well trained in the research process. Some people might argue that it is not necessary to train translators, and that their job is to simply ‘translate.’ But well trained translators not only understand the value of questions in the overall research process, they also experiment with different ways to get the respondent to understand the questions. The ownership and motivation of translators arise only when they are fully immersed into the research process. In my own involvement in the design and translation of an anthropometric training for a LANSA study on women’s work and nutrition in Sindh, I leveraged on my understanding of the study while translating some key concepts to the participants.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Who works and why: Detangling women’s agricultural work

by Sidra Mazhar

A woman cuts sugarcane in Mirpurkhas.
Photo credit: Collective team

Throughout the world, women play a very important role in the agricultural sector. In the last few decades, agriculture has undergone a gendered transformation termed the ‘feminization of agriculture’. National level statistics in developing countries show that there has been an increase in female involvement in agriculture accompanied by a steady decline in men’s participation. It is commonly believed that this increased participation in agriculture empowers women economically and socially. However, our LANSA survey on women’s work and nutrition in rural Sindh, where we surveyed new mothers about their work before, during, and after pregnancy, tells a different story.