How can a global research group support research capacity building in low- and middle-income country settings, in the field of violence against women and healthcare research?
Violence against women is, according to the WHO, a public health emergency. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women experience intimate partner violence and the impact on maternal, sexual, child and mental health can be profound and enduring. The declaration of Astana states that Primary Health Care should be people-centred and gender-sensitive, with a public-health approach prioritised. The WHO recommends a clinical and health system response to violence against women, but there is limited evidence to guide intervention development in low and middle income settings.
HERA (Healthcare responding to violence and abuse) is an NIHR funded global research group aiming to develop appropriate health system responses to violence against women in low- and middle-income countries. The lead institutions are based in the UK with research partners in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Brazil, Nepal and Sri Lanka. We want to make capacity building an explicit outcome of our research group work. A participatory workshop was held which included members from all country teams (7 from UK, 4 from OPT, 2 from Brazil, 3 from Nepal and 4 from Sri Lanka). During this workshop we defined our underlying shared values, identified existing research barriers, considered the role of specific capacity building activities and explored methods for monitoring and evaluation.
The team identified key values that should underpin our ongoing capacity building work: mutual learning, respect, fair opportunity, clear boundaries, honesty and transparency. Current research barriers identified related to methodological expertise, access to training courses, information technology resources and English-language skills for academic writing and knowledge mobilisation. Hierarchy of knowledge and the potential for power imbalances between lead UK institutions and country partners was discussed. Existing areas of partner country expertise were highlighted, with opportunities for enhanced mutual learning between country teams proposed.Methods for monitoring and evaluating the capacity building programme were agreed. Capacity building will be embedded as a core aspect of the research group work and discussed at monthly management meetings. Quantitative indicators will be measured at baseline and intervals, and relate to research capacity at the individual, organizational, national/regional and research network level. Qualitative semi-structured interviews with researchers will generate richer experiential data to inform and refine both the capacity building programme and it’s ongoing evaluation.
Capacity building is an important outcome of global health research group work. In sharing ownership and responsibility for the capacity building agenda between partner countries, we hope that the impact and sustainability of capacity building activities will be enhanced.