In March 2022, I was able to return to Kenya to resume my dissertation research. It was wonderful to be back after two years away and to see and work with Kenyan colleagues in person again. I spent part of the time conducting follow-up interviews with sexual and reproductive health NGOs in Kisumu and part of the time preparing to conduct a survey in Migori County later this year.
My qualitative work began in February 2020 when I was last in Kenya. I met with several Kisumu-based sexual and reproductive health NGOs to learn about how the US’s global gag rule had impacted their operations, relationships with donors, and relationships with other NGOs. When the pandemic hit and Kenya experienced lockdowns, I along with my undergraduate research assistants Ema Kuczura and Sarah Hubner, conducted semi-structured interviews over zoom with roughly 35 NGOs to understand how they were responding to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased demand for their services, in part due to an uptick in gender-based violence and teen pregnancy. Sarah and Ema talk more about this work here: https://dukecenterforglobalreproductivehealth.org/2021/05/10/student-spotlight-ema-kuczura-and-sarah-hubner/ and the article we published can be found here: https://www-tandfonline-com.proxy.lib.duke.edu/doi/pdf/10.1080/14616742.2021.1896372?needAccess=true. On this return fieldwork trip, it was helpful to reconnect with some of these same NGOs to learn how they are adapting their work in this less acute phase of COVID-19 and to understand the implications of President Biden’s repeal of the global gag rule. Although I was disappointed to learn that the NGOs, with which I spoke had not experienced an increase in US funding, I was encouraged to hear they had increased their cooperative arrangements in order to provide more comprehensive services. I plan to write an article in a political science journal about this NGO cooperation.
In preparation for my survey on women’s empowerment in Migori County, I met with county health officials and the sexual harassment and gender-based violence coordinator in Migori. My survey follows up on the HPV/cervical cancer education, screening, and treatment campaign conducted as a randomized control trial led by Dr. Huchko in 2016. I am measuring women’s empowerment as a downstream effect of that health intervention. The county officials with whom I met provided input on my survey questions and were supportive of research. I was able to tour some of the rural villages where the survey will take place and I look forward to returning later this year to carry out the study. All in all, it was a productive trip on many fronts.