February 9, 2018

GHI Collaborative Research Seed Grant Supports Violence Prevention Program in Accra, Ghana

Nana Apenem Dagadu, senior research officer at the Georgetown University Institute for Reproductive Health, reflects on how a Global Health Initiative collaborative research seed grant impacted her work to prevent adolescent partner violence in Ghana.

A popular Akan proverb—Prayɛ, sɛ woyi baako a na ebu; wokabomu a emmu—extols the power of several broomsticks working together. While I have known this saying for much of my life and appreciated the idea of strength in unity that it evokes, it took on new meaning last November during a workshop made possible by the Global Health Initiative (GHI).

I spent two days in a room with five other women discussing two things I love—Ghana and adolescent health—in order to design a study and initiate a possible program to address dating violence and overall well-being for adolescents in Ghana.

Setting the Stage for Collaboration

In reality, however, the work went beyond those two days. Dr. Dionne Coker-Appiah from the Department of Psychiatry and I received a GHI collaborative research seed grant in spring 2017 to advance work from a 2016 gender-based violence (GBV) seminar in Accra. Our grant aimed to bring together our own expertise with that of two Ghanaian researchers and program implementers, Adwoa Bame of the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment and Evelyn Nuvor of the Gender Studies and Human Rights Documentation Centre (Gender Centre).

In addition to fostering a collaborative exchange, we wanted to ensure mentoring for future researchers and youth advocates, so we included two students: Cristeen Anyanwu from Georgetown University and Elizabeth Odoi from the University of Ghana, Legon.

For six months our team worked with connected collaborators, Peter Batsa of the National Catholic Health Secretariat and Dorcas Coker-Appiah of the Gender Centre, to plan the logistics of the workshop and develop a literature review and stakeholder analysis. We shared interim results with one another via Google Docs and team webinars. This provided ample time to also get to know one another better personally, learn about each other’s research or programs, and make other professional connections.

Putting Insights into Action

Then, on November 15 and 16, we met in Washington, D.C., to review each other’s portfolios and the findings from the literature review and stakeholder analysis. Our research showed both the threat of GBV to Ghana’s health and development goals, and a dearth of evidence on adolescent dating and violence in Ghana. We wanted to channel the results and possible resources into a comprehensive, culturally appropriate intervention.

What resulted was a proposed program we call Gender-based Education, Advocacy and Research: Unleashing Potential for Adolescents in Ghana (GEAR UP-Ghana). GEAR UP-Ghana seeks to first to conduct formative research to understand underlying cultural and social norms about adolescent dating and attitudes and behaviors around gender equality and GBV more broadly; and second to use the study findings to adapt approaches from the Gender Roles, Equality And Transformation (GREAT) Project and Project LOVE to improve gender equitable attitudes and support adolescents and their communities to live healthy lives free from violence.

The team chose to work with in-school and out-of-school 10- to 19-year-old adolescents, including street hawkers, hairdressers, dressmakers, community youth groups, church youth groups, and kayaye (porters). We have chosen to work in Wenchi in the Brong Ahafo region of Ghana because of the area’s demographic composition, mix of both urban and rural areas, potential links/referrals to the Ghana Education Service and the Domestic Violence & Victim Support Unit, and an overlap in various partners’ work sites.

Looking Ahead

Looking beyond the productivity and great energy during the two days of the workshop, the team continues to work on grant applications and stay connected on individual endeavors. I most look forward to collaborating across institutions and sectors to make GEAR UP-Ghana a reality and catalyst for adolescent health and community strengthening.

GHI collaborative seed grants support research activities and workshops that bring together Georgetown faculty with colleagues at other schools, departments, and programs to share and pursue research and develop formal proposals for outside research funding. The deadline for the spring 2018 round is midnight on Sunday, March 11, 2018.