Girl silhouette hedge fence

How to get data working for girls

A special situation calls for a unique solution, and that’s the case when it comes to data about the situation for girls. Two months after the first-of-its-kind Girl Impact Map Rwanda launched, we talk to one of its creators, Kecia Bertermann, about the innovative platform that could transform the development community’s approach to data, while ensuring girls get what they need.

Like all great ideas, it seemed an obvious one. Kecia Bertermann and her colleague first got the idea for the Girl Impact Map more than two years ago while working for Girl Hub Rwanda.

“There’s a lot of talk in this community about knowledge management, data repositories and how to make sure that data is available to people,” Kecia said. “We had ideas of creating a really dynamic interactive map that layered the data that would be applicable for girls.”

We caught up with Kecia just before she presented the map at IST-Africa 2015 Conference and asked her about how the Girl Impact Map can transform the development community and unleash girls’ potential.

Q: What gaps are there in girl data now, and how does the GIM address the impact of these gaps?

Let’s say you’re interested in economic empowerment for girls in Rwanda. You would probably go to the Demographic and Health Surveys datasets and look at the indicators which are related to economic empowerment. You’d probably be interested in finding out who’s doing what related to economic empowerment for girls in Rwanda. So you’d have to attend some sector cluster meetings in Rwanda and do online research to find out which NGOs are involved in this area. You would also want to understand what the government itself was doing in Rwanda, which would involve interviews with government officials to understand the systems that are in place relating to economic empowerment.

It also highlights where the gaps in data are – because some datasets only cover girls 15 and older, you realise data doesn’t exist for girls aged 10 to 14.

Kecia Bertermann

Kecia Bertermann

What the Girl Impact Map does is pull together a lot of these different datasets into one centrally located place, and it enables someone to look at the datasets they’re interested in and layer them in ways specific to their interests.

It also highlights where the gaps in data are. Because some datasets only go down to girls who are 15 years old, you realise data doesn’t exist for girls aged 10 to 14.

Q: What is the criteria for data contributors? And what kind of contributors would add a valuable layer?

The datasets have to be validated by the government of Rwanda. There’s a robust process here in Rwanda for getting permission to do surveys and research. Any data that is on the map has to go through that process.

Q: Who are the intended users and what are the different user journeys they might experience?

We see several different types of users for the map. One type would be government officials who are interested in looking at the situation for girls in order to effect positive policy change.

Another would be NGO practitioners who are interested in developing new programmes for girls and need to understand the situation for girls in specific districts of Rwanda.

And then a third type of user we’ve identified are researchers. The map is a good starting place to help researchers carry out specific and very detailed research.

We want to make this map something that girls, over time, use as a resource.

One group of users that we want to reach in the future are girls themselves. We want to make this map something that, over time, girls use as a resource if they want to find out more about what’s happening with their peers.

Q: How important is stakeholder buy-in for a project like the GIM?

Stakeholder buy-in is absolutely critical for a couple of reasons. One is that much of the data on the map comes directly from partners. We also work with the government’s ministries to supply data relating to education and health infrastructure, and so on. We rely on the NGO partners, both international and local, who are doing work in Rwanda, as well as the local NGOs, to supply us with data about the projects they are doing with adolescent girls. The map can’t exist without that up-to-date data, which involves a lot of partnerships with different stakeholders.

Q: Were there any sensitivities among stakeholders?

When we first came up with the idea for a map, we did several rounds of potential user interviews and obtained feedback to develop a prototype. Data is a hot commodity and there was initially some hesitancy around sharing this for such a new tool like the Girl Impact Map. We’re pleased to say a lot of these concerns have been overcome as partners saw the potential benefits of this platform as a go-to resource.

Q: What reception has the map received so far?

The reception has been really, really positive. People are saying this is the first time they’ve seen a platform that brings these different types of data together, and that it’s a real innovation for the NGO sector.

We’ve had a lot of interest from different partners saying they would love to do a map like this, maybe for the agriculture sector or the health sector, and interest in replicating the Girl Impact Map in other countries.

The goal for us now is to keep the map up to date and validated and share it with as many people in Rwanda as possible so that girls get the services, education and support they need most.