Humanitarian evidence is produced in settings of heightened power imbalances between research stakeholders. Yet evidence production processes often lack explicit reflection of who is shaping the questions asked and making meaning of the answers.
Aims and objectives:
Empowered Aid is participatory action research that seeks to mitigate sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) perpetrated by aid actors. Refugee women and girls in Uganda and Lebanon, as experts on SEA risk, are engaged co-researchers in generating evidence on how to make aid distributions safer.
Diverse creative processes are utilised to co-produce knowledge about SEA risks and strategies to reduce them. These same processes are used to reflect on power dynamics within the research process itself, local gender power dynamics, and structural power dynamics between aid actors and those receiving aid.
Fifty-five Syrian and South Sudanese refugee women and girl co-researchers used ethnographic methods to document their and their peers’ lived experiences of SEA risks while accessing humanitarian aid. Creative methods including drawing, drama, storytelling, community mapping, and body mapping were applied during data collection and qualitative analysis, as well as in reflection and action analysis workshops. SEA was reported across all the types of aid studied, and these findings are being used to adapt aid distribution processes.
Discussion and conclusions:
Creative and participatory practices can address the barriers, such as illiteracy (including computer illiteracy) and lack of training, often cited as limiting researchers’ ability to share power with affected communities, and allow for greater co-production of knowledge and evidence.