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Engaging male youth in Karamoja: generating operational knowledge on comprehensive socioeconomic support for male youth at-risk in conflict-affected contexts

Project Name Engaging male youth in Karamoja: generating operational knowledge on comprehensive socioeconomic support for male youth at-risk in conflict-affected contexts
Location Karamoja, Uganda
Primary Beneficiaries Male Youth in Karamoja
Duration October 2012 – December 2013
Implementation Partner Tufts University

Objectives: The overall objective of the intervention is to generate operational knowledge on effective approaches to engage male youth at-risk for enhanced security and poverty reduction. Specifically:  (i) better understand the needs of at-risk youth in the Karamoja region, (ii) to use that research to design a low-cost, scalable program for the holistic engagement of at-risk youth, combining livelihood promotion with life skills to address prevailing gender norms which contribute to the perpetuation of insecurity and hindrance of development and (iii) implement and evaluate a cross-cutting design that would allow a comparison between economic-focused livelihoods diversification interventions and ‘combined’ interventions comprising of additional ‘life skills’ activities.

Background and Rationale:  The Karamoja region of Uganda is historically underserved and marginalized and has the lowest human security indicators in the country. Repeated crop failures, prolong droughts, loss of access to prime grazing land and the steady erosion of animal-based livelihoods have had a profound impact on the livelihoods of the population. Political and economic marginalization and the absence of pro-pastoral policies have compounded these factors.   However, while the external shocks and pressures on the region are many, the insecurity caused by internal cattle raiding, violent conflict, and other criminal activities has long been the greatest threat to the peace, security and development of the population.  Male youth are both the main perpetrators and the main victims of this violence. These youth are also experiencing the most pronounced impacts of the loss of animal-based livelihoods and frequently describe themselves as “idle” and “redundant.” While once socioeconomic pillars of the community and central to the success of livelihood strategies, many young men find themselves unable to provide and protect for their families which has brought about a change to the concept of manhood in Karamoja.

In light of these dynamics, engaging ‘male at-risk youth’ is critical to addressing insecurity and promoting development using a comprehensive strategy aiming to both promote livelihood diversification as well as changes in knowledge attitudes and practices linked to gender norms.  LOGiCA aims to further examine the gender-related behavioral aspects of the observed shifts in livelihoods and identity, and their linkages to insecurity; the aim being to generate evidence-based operational good practice on integrating gender concerns into programming in conflict-affected contexts.

Project Description

The project consists of three components:  (i) life skills delivery and adaptation, (ii) livelihood diversification synergies, and (iii) research. LOGiCA is partnering with the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University to implement the research who shall in turn collaborate with the Network for Stepping Stones Approach (NESSA) and Concern Worldwide.

i. Life Skills Delivery and adaptation:

Life skills’ refers to a large set of psychosocial and interpersonal behavioral skills including self-confidence, motivation, conflict management and critical thinking.1 These skills can equip individuals with the necessary tools to make informed decisions, communicate effectively and manage risks in relation to a range of issues including inter alia, human rights and social issues, violence prevention and peace-building, health education and HIV prevention. 2 Stepping Stones is a life skills training package which has been adapted to a range of different contexts worldwide 3. A series of evaluations indicate strong behavioral change resulting from Stepping Stones interventions, 4 many supporting the view that the methodology contributes to change in knowledge and attitudes around gender relations. 5 As a gender-focused participatory process, Stepping Stones aims at assisting communities to develop the skills and confidence to understand and challenge prevailing norms, customs and societal expectations that reinforce the effects of poverty. The Stepping Stones package was developed by the Strategies for Hope project, and was first founded in 1989 in Uganda with the support of Action Aid.  Today, the Network for Stepping Stones Approaches (NESSA) has a Uganda collaboration partner which has extensive experience in implementing Stepping Stones projects in Uganda and beyond.

Continuous action-based research under this initiative shall inform the customization of the Stepping Stones training package to address issues specific to the Karamoja region and needs of target beneficiaries and their communities. Preliminary research will serve to inform the overall training approach, either through training of trainers or direct community delivery. Training activities will complement existing livelihood diversification activities with participatory, non-formal skills training focusing on behavioral adaptation in relation to socio-cultural norms of masculinity associated with gender and inter-generational relations.

ii. Livelihood diversification synergies:

The initiative complements an existing intervention providing support for livelihood diversification including vocational training and skills development to youth implemented by Concern Worldwide.   Concern implements its livelihood programs through several local partners in the region, and the livelihood activities are focused in the communities themselves (as opposed to urban areas) and are geared towards the interests of the participants.  Both men and women are included in a range of livelihood trainings including brick-making, tailoring, leather tanning, crop husbandry, and animal health, among others.  The life skills package delivered through the Stepping Stones approach aims to directly complement these existing livelihood activities.

iii. Research Component:

The research component of the project is divided into four phases, and each of these phases will feed into the larger project through collaboration with stakeholders.
Preliminary Research: Qualitative research shall be conducted to inform the design and adaptation of the Stepping Stones package. This research will seek to understand how local communities understand and define propensity for engaging in violent or criminal behavior on the part of young men.  In talking to community members and male youth themselves the research will investigate how social, political and economic expectations and views of manhood are evolving, and the ways in which manhood within Karamoja is achieved, maintained, and socially recognized. Research will seek to understand self-perceived gaps in skills, confidence and knowledge-base. 

Evaluation Phase (base-line study, mid-term one, mid-term two and final evaluation): A mixed-methods baseline study will take place in the treatment/control, and zero treatment sites. Data collection will subsequently occur at four points using a stepped wedge approach, lasting approximately three weeks at each interval across nine villages (six treatment/control and three zero-treatment): base-line, mid-term one, mid-term two and end-line.  The full duration of the impact evaluation will be approximately 13 months, encompassing the implementation of the stepping stones intervention (18 weeks in length) at four different intervals and data collection prior and following the intervention in all nine villages.  This allows for each village to serve as its own control in the analysis, as well as account for any possible time and seasonal effects.  Data from the three zero-treatment groups will allow a separation of the impact of the livelihood program from that of the combined impact of the livelihood program and stepping stones in the six treatment villages.

1 World Bank (2007) World Development Report 2007: Development and the Next Generation. Washington DC, World Bank
2 http://www.unicef.org/lifeskills/index_7308.html
3 Wallace, T. (2006) Evaluating Stepping Stones. A review of existing evaluations and ideas for future M&E work. Action Aid International
4 See for example: Jewkes et al (2007) ‘Evaluation of Stepping Stones: A Gender Transformative HIV Prevention Intervention’ Medical Research Council South Africa Policy Brief ., others are listed at http://www.steppingstonesfeedback.org/index.php/page/Resources/gb?resourceid=7
5 Nduhura, D., Hadjipatera, A. (2006) ‘Replication and Scaling up of Good Practice Tools: Lessons Learned by ACORD on the introduction of Stepping Stones in three African Countries’ Oxfam


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Uganda Emergency Demobilization and Reintegration Program (UgDRP)

LOGiCA supported the development and implementation of the technical guidelines of gender mainstreaming (TGGM). These guidelines elaborate gender issues and a gender mainstreaming approach, focusing on the different activities and beneficiary groups of the project as well as the respective responsibilities of the different teams within the Amnesty Commission. Areas of gender gaps for different aspects of the program have been identified and mitigating measures developed. The TGGM provides a practical and simple guide for the staff and partners to address gender issues in the return and reinsertion of ex-combatants.


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Generating Knowledge on the Meaning of Psychosocial Wellbeing for Conflict-Affected Women in Northern Uganda

A study was initiated in 2011 to investigate local understandings of empowerment, psychosocial wellbeing, self-esteem and social connectedness; and to develop assessment tools which are culturally appropriate, valid and reliable with a population of women in the Acholi region. Focus group discussion and free-listing techniques were employed to develop tools for the measurement of the aforementioned issues, with specific findings emerging in relation to the meaning of psychosocial distress in Northern Uganda and related implications for future programming. The two following LOGiCA Working Papers describe the process of developing the tools:

The process was subsequently replicated in Eastern DRC during 2013 and 2014 by developing locally relevant tools to measure psychosocial well-being among conflict-affected women in the Orientale province in DRC. The report outlining the process as well as the final tool is available here:

In October 2013, the process of developing the tools in the LRA-affected area was presented at the Regional Psychosocial Support Forum in Kenya. The presentation can be accessed here.


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Examining the Role of Male Partners and Household Members in Female-Owned Businesses in Northern Uganda

Project Name Examining the Role of Male Partners and Household Members in Female-Owned Businesses in Northern Uganda
Location Northern Uganda
Primary Beneficiaries Vulnerable conflict-affected populations
Duration March 2011 – September 2012
Implementation Partner Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI)

Overview: The initiative aims to augment an ongoing program and evaluation in order to evaluate two new components/questions:

    • the role of male partners and key household members in informal businesses development by poor young females impacted by conflict in Northern Uganda, and
    • the impact and cost-effectiveness of follow-up visits to poor female informal entrepreneurs.

Rationale: Twenty years of war and widespread displacement have left the majority of the population of Northern Uganda impoverished. Young women and girls in particular have suffered economically and educationally from the war. A survey conducted in 2007 concluded that the development of new economic opportunities and building social capital will be crucial ingredients in reducing poverty and improving the health, education and psychosocial well-being of youth in Northern Uganda. Young women, especially those with children or orphans to care for, are in most need of such livelihoods assistance. This includes a disproportionate number of formerly abducted young mothers, most of whom do not return to school.

Project Details: Over the last 7 years, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and the Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI) have developed and refined an innovative economic assistance program in the North. The approach departs from traditional models of poverty assistance, in that it targets the most vulnerable members of the community and provides them with extensive psychosocial services and social networks alongside grant (rather than credit-based) assistance. There are four components to IPA and AVSI’s ongoing program:

    • brief business skill training (BST),
    • group training and accountability,
    • an individual start-up grant, and
    • regular follow-up by trained community workers.  

In 2009, AVSI and IPA scaled-up the program and initiated a randomized experiment to evaluate impact. IPA designed a 3-year evaluation that would identify (1) the medium-term impacts of participation in the micro-enterprise program, and (2) the contribution of group formation and business networks to program success, poverty reduction, and well being. IPA and AVSI’s experience with this program model suggested that the target women lack support networks that they could use for business advice, savings and lending, and other support. Development programs commonly form villagers, especially women, into groups for this purpose. It is universal, yet untested. The need to test whether this was an effective way to increase success and well-being therefore became apparent.  Thus, in the 60 Phase 1 villages a crosscutting design (CCD) has been instituted, where women in 30 of the Phase 1 villages were encouraged to form a mutual support group, elect a leadership, and hold regular meetings. The groups received two days of advising and team building exercises. When the interim survey is conducted at the end of Phase 1, the impact of these women’s support networks on all of our outcomes of interest can be measured.
The study will:

    • implement and evaluate a cross cutting design that would allow to compare the women-focused program with the same intervention targeting women and their male partners and other household members and so evaluate effects on household gender dynamics and business outcomes, and
    • implement and evaluate a cross cutting design that will examine the impact and cost-effectiveness of follow up visits to program beneficiaries.


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