Assisting in the research project “Making Sense of Child Marriage Among Syrian Refugees”, ESR Sophie Roupetz spent July and August in Lebanon. The project was developed by CHIBOW partner Susan Bartels of Queens University, Ontario, Canada and is funded by the World Bank Group.
To understand child marriage and to help Syrian family members identify feasible and culturally acceptable community-based interventions that will address early marriage, a novel research tool – Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker® – has been used. The innovative, mixed-method approach allows the collection of many personal experiences. Using an iPad and SenseMaker software, personal narratives were voice recorded and followed by diverse questions with regard to the story being told. To recruit as broad and diverse as possible, participants are both unmarried and married Syrian girls; their mothers and fathers; unmarried and married Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian men; as well as community leaders, such as teachers or field workers.
Of course, the assessment tool is in Arabic and the project would therefore not be achievable without a partner onsite. In collaboration with the local NGO ABAAD Resource Center, 12 humanitarian workers were recruited to conduct the interviews in the field; covering the capital of Beirut, Tripoli and Beqaa Valley. Upon Sophie’s arrival, Susan had already completed a one-week training course with the interviewers, and Sophie assisted for some days in Beirut, before Susan handed over the project co-ordination. Sabine Lee, CHIBOW ITN Lead, also joined the research group in Beirut, making herself familiar with the SenseMaker software tool before using the approach in a study based in Vietnam starting in autumn.
In order to introduce the Team Leaders in each area to the software tool and the most important research goals, Susan, Sabine and Sophie took a trip together to the NGO department in Tripoli. Sophie also travelled the following weeks between Tripoli, Beqaa Valley and Beirut to update Team Leaders about any progress, and to help identify any problems arising. As project manager she was responsible for overseeing the data collection, supervising the research assistants and handling logistics. She monitored and analysed the data set by screening it for errors and duplicates, and created weekly reports for the teams. In doing so, she frequently connected with an experienced Cognitive Edge SenseMaker consultant in the US, Laurie Webster of QED Insight, and research assistant Nour Bakhache at Queen’s University, a native speaker of Arabic.
More than 1,400 interviews have been conducted so far, and all the target groups have been reached. A full report with key research findings, policy recommendations and advocacy implications will be one of the outputs of the study. The data will be presented back to the community through focus groups, to aid with interpretation. This will also provide a cultural context for the results and to discuss potential interventions aimed to improving the lives and wellbeing of Syrian girls in Lebanon. First preparations for paper writing are set up, and first papers are in their preparations. Sophie had a wonderful, enriching experience in Lebanon and hopes to travel back there in the future.