One of the key purposes behind this project was to demonstrate the relevance of evidence and data for shaping on ground action and interventions. The project used insights from the UDAYA study to identify agendas for on ground action. This presented some challenges and learning that can inform future initiatives to generate data to support on ground work as well as on data based action. These are presented below:
Use verified data as a benchmark: The UDAYA data proved extremely relevant and useful in different ways to further ongoing advocacy, especially when communicating with government officials.
“Whenever I visited block and district coordinators of the RKSK program, frontline workers like ASHA and ANMs, or even media persons, I would give them the factsheets. It drew their attention to the facts behind the stories we were sharing.” ~ Afaq Ullah, Ayodhya.
Adapt and contextualise the data to be locally relevant: While the UDAYA data provided a comprehensive insight of the situation at the state level, the same insights had to be adapted to local contexts, when working at the block and district level. Many consultants stressed the value of having relevant data available. Most of the interventions involved extensive community monitoring initiatives to corroborate the data at ground level. The adolescents, too, used data to validate their claims when visiting AFHCs or submitting demand letters.
Engage local level organisations and officials: For most of the consultants, using data insights was very useful. They recommended that NGOs, CBOs and local organisations use data similarly for their projects with communities, and with government officials. In fact, one suggestion was that such data ought to be shared with coalitions and networks of organisations, via dissemination workshops focused on helping the different organisations understand how to actually use the data.
Involve community members in creating and supporting data based demands: Multiple consultants encourage involving communities in the data collection processes. While collecting data on a particular service communities or groups who access the service are the ones who should be contacted.
Another consultant suggested that young people from the community itself could be involved in setting priorities for what data should be gathered and in collecting data. Community perspectives should be used to finalise the parameters of data collection so that the final data and its analysis will be useful to them.
One of the consultants described that confidence and awareness around rights and entitlements has also greatly helped to build a better relationship with the government authorities. He adds that the adolescents’ approach of curiosity and cooperation made authorities more inclined to collaborate with them.
“Our approach was non-confrontational. We assured each person involved in the program that this was an opportunity to explore and work together, and they were happy to have the help and cooperation.”
Use public intervention to involve various stakeholders: Opportunities like the Kishor Swasth Diwas events provided more entertaining, and engaging ways of connecting with frontline workers like ASHA, ANMs, anganwadi workers and block and district authorities who participated readily in the different programs. Several of the interventions also involved front line workers to support community data gathering and dissemination exercises and believe that the UDAYA data insights have been key to building community awareness, provided a new lens to adolescent issues, and were crucial in providing the community’s demands with solid evidence.
“Our conversations with concerned officials like the RKSK nodal person, Child Development Project Officer, District Project Officer and the media were made easier because we began with presenting data insights from the UDAYA study.” Several media reports were published in local newspapers, using data insights to highlight and report on the district level status of service delivery of RKSK.
Data dissemination should be simple and scalable: Consultants had interesting insights to share about data dissemination processes undertaken by the interventions. For example, one stressed that for the data to be truly useful, it should be disseminated in simple and local languages. Several shared strategies for dissemination; one intervention used whatsapp groups to highlight specific data insights to various community groups. Another consultant believes that the digital component of their intervention made the data, and discussions around it more fun and engaging for everyone.
“Dumping cold data on the community, especially adolescents, doesn’t make sense. So we thought of pictorial representations, videos and graphics that would be sparking conversations. Even pie charts and graphs make more visual sense. The adolescents especially, resonated with the fact that so many other boys and girls experience the same issues or fears that they have.”
Be aware of the gaps in data: All the consultants reiterate the need for district level data, and the need to focus on specific aspects of data, for example mental health. They elaborate that data ought to be disaggregated and representative of various communities, identities and socio-cultural practises, and suggest that parameters like caste and religion be added, and call for data collection to look beyond gender binaries to enable inclusion of trans people.
Real change takes time: Several consultants were confident that these interventions have sparked change, and have enabled members of the communities they worked with, especially adolescents, to approach officials. Most agree that a lot has changed since they first approached the adolescents with the UDAYA data. Plans for the near future include efforts to scale the efforts of the adolescents to a district, and then a state level to recommend an increased budget for adolescent health service delivery, with clear guidelines and a state level monitoring committee for the same.
“There’s a lot more awareness, conversation and action on adolescent health service delivery. When the iron folic tablets finished a few months ago, the adolescents approached the Chief Medical Officer and the tablets were sanctioned and distributed. Earlier, it was a huge challenge to even introduce this topic with the community, but now the youth are aware and taking action.”