Supporting the measurement and enhancement of African children's rights and well-being in nutrition, healthcare and education through a gender lens

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Sch for Policy Studies

Abstract

The governments of the World have agreed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The first five goals are no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education and gender equality. The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) is the leading independent, not-for-profit, Pan-African organisation, specialising in helping African governments to improve their policies and practices to meet the SDGs for children. This project builds upon a long-term partnership between the ACPF and the University of Bristol to make better use of available data to provide policymakers with the high-quality evidence they need to help meet the first five SDGs.

Agenda 2063 is Africa's blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. It is the continent's strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development. This ambitious goal cannot be achieved without improvements in the lives of African Children. However, approximately 27 million African children suffer from stunting (low height for age), 16 million are underweight (low weight for age) and 8 million suffer from wasting (low weight for height). In 2016, only two-thirds of children in Africa had been vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and other serious childhood diseases. Similarly, about 7 million children in Eastern and Southern Africa and 8 million in West and Central Africa are likely to receive no pre-primary education in 2030 given the current slow rates of improvement (UNICEF 2018). The combination of poverty and inadequate nutrition, healthcare and education are amongst the most intractable development challenges faced by most countries in Africa (ACPF 2018).

Gender discrimination is also a significant problem in Africa, and there remain many social, economic and cultural factors contributing to the disempowerment and discriminatory practices that disadvantage women and girls. There is a pressing need for systematic assessments on the nature and extent of gender discrimination in nutrition, healthcare and education in Africa over the past decade (2008-2018).

This project will analyse relevant data about children's lives and circumstances using state-of-the-art quantitative and qualitative methods to explore 'what' changes there have been in child nutrition, healthcare and education during the past ten years in Africa, 'when' these changes are related to gender disparities and the availability and quality of child protection policies and services in each country, and 'where' children at sub-national level are at the greatest risk of being left behind.

Outputs from this project will be published by ACPF in their forthcoming flagship report -- The African Report on Child Well-being 2020: How Friendly are African Governments towards the Girl Child?

Planned Impact

1. WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE RESEARCH? The ultimate beneficiaries of this project are children in African who need adequate nutrition, healthcare and education. Social workers, public health professionals and stakeholders based in local governments, treaty bodies, NGOs and international organisations (e.g. UNICEF, WHO, UNDP) will also benefit. Widespread media coverage and public interests in the progress towards the SDGs are anticipated so that journalists and the general public will also be informed about the state of the rights and well-being of children in this rapidly changing continent. 2. HOW WILL THEY BENEFIT FROM THE RESEARCH? All the 52 African countries (e.g. Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, etc) involved are experiencing rapid economic, social and political transitions. Reliable data and comprehensive measures are needed to understand how the nutrition, healthcare and education profiles of the younger generations are patterned so that the extent, nature and distribution of any problems can be better understood and resources better targeted. This project will produce empirical evidence on this critical issue via secondary analysis of nationally representative data, disaggregated by gender. It can provide analyses and policy-relevant evidence to African governments, treaty bodies, and so on. The results can be used for evidence-based advocacy tools designed to influence policy and practice. The research will help to inform the African public about the main factors hindering the achievement of child-relevant SDGs with a particular focus on girls. Treaty bodies such as the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child who are mandated to monitor implementation of the African Children's Charter will find the project a useful resource for their monitoring role. The African Union's Department for Social Affairs can use the research findings to inform their policy development and strategies for their advancing social development agenda concerning nutrition, healthcare, education and gender equality. Civil society organisations can use the results in their advocacy work and routine engagement with local governments, and to initiate public dialogue on the problems, consequences (both immediate and long-term) and solutions and feed existing campaigns on gender equality. 3. WHAT WILL BE DONE TO ENSURE THAT THEY HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BENEFIT FROM THE RESEARCH? A set of strategies will be applied to maximise economic and societal impact: 1) Policy reports/briefs/articles: Project results will be included in The African Report on Child Well-being 2020: How Friendly are African Governments towards the Girl Child?, produced by ACPF; articles and policy briefs explaining the project's objectives, methodologies and results will be written for non-academic audiences in English and French to maximise accessibility and circulated through UNICEF, UNDP, African Research Centre at the University of Bristol, Worldwide Universities Network, Bristol Poverty Institute, and BristolPolicy; 2) Mass media: Where applicable, outputs will be published on the websites of local ministries, departments, agencies and public authorises. Through established connections with WHO and other NGOs, outputs will also be disseminated via their newsletters, Twitters and blogs; 3) Dissemination events: Two dissemination events will be held in Ethiopia on Dec 2020 and Apr 2021, respectively, in which researchers, students, policymakers, think-tanks and journalists will be invited to share project results and discuss further NGO-academic collaboration in developing countries; 4) Capacity development: Two workshops will be organised, focusing on research ethics and data and policy analysis and strategies, respectively. The former will be offered to the project staff while the latter will include about 50 advanced data users in Africa, e.g. ACPF staff, local researchers, research students, national statistical offices, and so on.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Our project finds that African girls are at the back of the queue for healthcare, education and social protection spending, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse. Governments must commit urgently to radical, transformative actions to ensure all girls enjoy a healthy, educated and equal future. The new Girl-Friendliness Index shows that every girl should be able to develop her full potential in an atmosphere of dignity and equality. In partnership with the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), our key findings as a core of the African Report on Child Wellbeing 2020 suggest that girls in Africa nowadays are more likely to be victims of trafficking, sexual abuse and labour exploitation. Girls in Africa are more likely to get married much younger and/or experience FGM than girls anywhere else. They are more often discriminated against by laws relating to marriage and inheritance, and are at higher risk of mental health problems. Unfortunately, at the same time, girls in Africa are more likely to be excluded from healthcare, including sexual and reproductive healthcare. They often do not get a decent education and are more likely to drop out of school or excluded from hygiene and sanitation in schools. They still face intertwined legal, social, economic, cultural, attitudinal and administrative challenges that hinder enjoyment of their rights and affect their wellbeing.
Exploitation Route The Girl-Friendliness Index (GFI), developed by the African Child Policy Forum with the assistance of the University of Bristol research team, is a rights-based statistical framework that uses a wide range of data to measure the progress of African governments towards realising the rights and wellbeing of girls. Based on the GFI, future projects can try to apply the knowledge and experiences obtained from this project in other regions of the world (e.g. South Asia or Latin America), where unequal access to nutrition, healthcare and education of female children and young people remains a pertinent problem.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

URL https://www.africanchild.report/
 
Description This project has begun to create societal and economic impact in the public and third sectors in Africa. The message that resonated well from this research is that governments need not be rich to become girl-friendly. What is essential is commitment and accountability. Findings from this project have also identified context relevant priority areas for action to improve African girls' rights and wellbeing. It provides practical recommends for governments and national and international organisations to ensure gender sensitivity in legal and policy frameworks for children by developing girl-friendly laws and policies and repeal discriminatory provisions; invest in girls' education at all levels by ramping up spending to a minimum of four percent of GDP whilst aiming for 10 percent; invest in girls' health and nutrition by meeting the Abuja Declaration target of increasing health spending to 15 percent of total government budget; allocate sufficient human and financial resources to tackle emerging mental health problems among adolescent girls; commit to the International Labour Organisation's target of investing at least 6.4 percent of GDP in social protection, strengthening child protection systems and enforcing relevant laws and policies; and invest in national census and survey programmes to collect, analyse and act on gender-disaggregated data such as gender-based violence, quality of education, adolescent health and nutrition and mental health.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description EBI Rapid Response funding call: COVID-19 Global Public Health
Amount £12,884 (GBP)
Organisation University of Bristol 
Department Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2020 
End 07/2020
 
Description Monograph on Child Poverty in Zanzibar
Amount £136,883 (GBP)
Organisation UNICEF 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 06/2021 
End 03/2022
 
Description Participatory climate information distillation for urban flood resilience
Amount £201,489 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2021 
End 03/2022
 
Title The Girl-Friendliness Index 
Description The Girl-Friendliness Index (GFI), developed by the African Child Policy Forum with assistance of researchers at the University of Bristol, is a rights-based statistical framework that uses a wide range of data to measure the progress of African governments towards realising the rights and wellbeing of girls. It is a unique tool which scores and ranks how well or poorly a government performs when it comes to the rights and wellbeing of girls. The GIF scores governments against 23 indicators that measure whether or not they have exerted maximising efforts to respect, protect and fulfil girls' rights and ensure gender equality among children. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Based on the Girl-Friendliness Index (GFI), our project finds that African governments have made some progress on girls' rights and wellbeing, but there are stark differences in performance and most countries are failing. In particular, girl-friendly countries have comprehensive, girl-sensitive laws and policies which guarantee adequate protection; make a better effort to enforce and implement those laws and policies; and set adequate budgets to benefit girls. They implement and enforce girl-sensitive laws and policies; allocate sufficient funding to gender-sensitive budgets; and have strong enforcement and accountability mechanisms. Mauritius is the most girl-friendly country in Africa, with Tunisia, South Africa, Seychelles, Algeria, Cabo Verde and Namibia also in the top category. Bottom of the table comes South Sudan, with Chad, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Central African Republic and Comoros also rated as least child-friendly. The analysis clearly identified countries that need to exert more effort to create enabling environment for girls. Clear reference was also made on the fact that a high score does not mean a government has fully realised the rights and wellbeing of all girls - only that it has performed relatively well compared to other African countries. Moreover, economic wealth is not necessarily related to girl-friendliness. Some poorer African countries - including Lesotho and Gabon - performed reasonably well, while others with a relatively high GDP such as Equatorial Guinea and Botswana were ranked lower. Girl-friendliness is not so much determined absolute wealth as by political commitment and accountability. 
URL https://www.africanchild.report/
 
Description Supporting the measurement and enhancement of African children's rights and wellbeing in nutrition, healthcare and education through a gender lens 
Organisation African Child Policy Forum
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research team has Zhang (PI), Grieve (Co-I), Gordon (Co-I) and Lanau (consultant). Collaborating with the project partner, African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), the research team contributes to the analysis and publication of the flagship report series of the African Report on Child Wellbeing 2020.
Collaborator Contribution Working closely with the research team at the University of Bristol, the project partner leads the data collection, analysis and publication of the flagship report series of the African Report on Child Wellbeing 2020.
Impact This collaboration and partnership has led to a set of important outputs, including: the publication of the African Report on Child Wellbeing 2020; the international launch event of the above Report; the mass media report (e.g. the Gradian) of the above launch event; a set of impactful publications under review or preparation; experts' round table on research ethics and methodology.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Diessemination at international conferences 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Research team members presented finding from the project at international conferences.

Lanau, A., Grieve, T. Enria, L. Fayia, A. (2021) Since the market is closed, there is no more money, there is nothing to do: voices of adolescent girls in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone on the impact of COVID-19 and poverty Development Studies Association Conference. Online at UEA. 28 Jun-2 Jul (Oral)

Wayack-Pambé, M., Lanau, A., Grieve, T., (2021) 'Let's say that marriage is not too much of a goal in the future for me' How schooling shapes adolescents' girls attitudes towards marriage in Burkina Faso Development Studies Association Conference. Online at UEA. 28 Jun-2 Jul (Oral)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Experts' round table on research ethics and methodology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Zhang and Grieve along with the project partner, African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) and the research team attended the experts' roundtable on the 24th March 2020, which focused on the research ethics and methodological issues about understanding the rights and wellbeing of African girls. Grieve and Zhang were able to respond to questions from advisory boards and explain key concepts on gender and inequality with reference to girls' wellbeing in Africa.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Public presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Lanau and Grieve presented results from the project at the Bristol Poverty Institute open webinar: Poverty Dimensions of COVID-19 for Girls in LMIC's. The webinar was attended by over 60 participants from a range of countries in Africa and Europe. Contributors on the panel included academics, practitioners and policy makers, e.g an expert from Plan International.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021