Supporting Gender Equality in Sri Lanka

With funding from USAID, we are implementing the Support for Professional and Institutional Capacity Enhancement (SPICE) project, which supports women’s local networks and activities in preventing and responding to gender-based violence (GBV).

Through a grant focused on supporting local women in reporting cases of sexual gender-based violence (SGBV), the Muslim Women’s Development Trust (MWDT) revived SGBV forums.

The forums grew to include representatives from non-governmental organizations, government bodies, medical officers and more across the district.

With activities including awareness raising with the police, parents of survivors and a range of service providers have played a pivotal role in strengthening responses to violence against women within the local Muslim communities.

Affected Women’s Forum (AWF), a SPICE grantee, first initiated a GBV taskforce in 2014 in the Ampara district to bring together government officials and representatives of women’s organizations and other civil society organizations (CSOs) to address the alarming prevalence of violence perpetrated against women.

“….We, as government officers, are now able to support women who have faced violence more effectively,” explained Rafana Abdul Razak, a member of the local Task Force. “Now, with the help of other organizations, we are providing our services in a collaborated manner.”

With activities including a youth forum, AWF also developed a vibrant pool of young leaders and activists to advocate against and respond to violence against women and child abuse.
Samithamby Saraniya, a 17-year-old student, emerged as a young, human rights activist after participating .

“After learning about women’s and children’s rights, I can identify women’s issues and incidents of child abuse and I am also influencing my friends and their families,” shared Samithamby.

Under the SPICE project, MSI similarly worked with local civil society organizations in the Kilinochchi, Vavuniya, Matara and Anuradhapura districts to address GBV through forums.

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Supporting Women Empowerment and Rights in Lebanon

MSI’s USAID-funded BALADI CAP is committed to advancing gender equality and the increased role of women in Lebanese CSOs and local municipal governance. A key aspect of this work is promoting women’s rights and ensuring that women’s voices are heard as part of empowering civil society.

Under BALADI CAP’s approach, the project awarded a series of advocacy grants through its Human Rights Advocacy Network, focused on addressing the discrimination and stigma faced by vulnerable women in the workplace. This includes women who are survivors of intimate partner violence, sex workers, former drug addicts and prisoners, and members of the LGBTQ community, through “know your rights” and advocacy campaigns, anti-discrimination labor policies, and more. These actions are considered a first within the Lebanese CSO community.

Through a partnership with “Soins Infirmiers et Developpement Communautaire” (SIDC), BALADI CAP supported SIDC’s launch of a one-year project, “Supporting Vulnerable Women’s Rights Activity,” comprised of 10 stories that reflect the real-life experiences of women who engaged in sex for money. This campaign raised public awareness about this vulnerable community for the first time in Lebanon and is geared to improve the rights of women sex workers. Public interest in this issue became apparent with over 5,000 shares on social media.

Furthermore, with BALADI CAP/USAID support, SIDC enhanced the institutional capacity of social service centers that provide services to vulnerable women. This included promoting the adoption of new or improved policies and practices in service provision to women in seven centers in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, that protected women from sexual and other forms of abuse when accessing health care and social support and helped improve their understanding of Lebanese laws that protect their rights.

“The project allowed this vulnerable community to raise its voice, so that they are not muted anymore. The outcomes of this project are key resources for people working in the healthcare and social services sector. These people should be defending those women throughout their work and not play the role of the oppressor”, said Dr. Huwaida Abi Ramya, head of the Social Work Department at Saint Joseph University in Beirut.

SIDC Chairperson Signing Grant Agreement with BALADI CAP COP Dr. Fares El Zein.

For more on the BALADI CAP, enjoy this interview with Chief of Party Dr. Fares El Zein.

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Learning and Breaking Bread: Viewpoints from Evaluation 2018

By Molly Hageboeck, Senior Advisor for Research and Evaluation

We hope we’ve started a new tradition! Here’s the recipe: 1) Pick the most interesting restaurant in whatever town we find ourselves, 2) round up as many MSI colleagues as possible, 3) invite folks from outside MSI who are going to present, or be the chairs or discussants for the upcoming conference sessions we are in, and 4) book the biggest table.

Beyond that, MSI needs no guidance.

In Cleveland, where a cadre of MSI staff recently visited for the annual American Evaluation Association (AEA) 2018 Conference, the restaurant just had to be Lola. Chef/owner Michael Symon has rock star status in the industry, as television’s “Iron Chef,” and a leader in bringing back the best of American regional cuisine, with an updated artisanal twist. (My expansive, house-made charcuterie plate, which went around the table, was the best I’ve ever had, and then some.) 

The “friends” we gathered, old and new, were also terrific:

  • Bhavani Pathak, MSI’s Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) for our Washington-based analytic services and evaluation support contract for USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment (E3) who was deep in a discussion about evaluations with MSI’s Jacob Patterson-Stein and Thomaz Alvares.
  • Savi Mull, field team director for MSI’s former five-year anti-human trafficking project with USAID’s regional Mission for South Asia, now with the C&A Foundation. She traded monitoring and evaluation stories with MSI’s Lala Kasimova, Set Oya and Dan Killian.
  • Jorge Miranda, from 3ie, who shared a panel on Friday. He helped me to understand the intricacies of 3ie’s process for deciding which of the impact evaluations their database receives are worth sharing with the world.
  • Lala Kasimova, Setsuko Oya, and Dan Killian

After a typical hectic day at any AEA annual meeting – where one wants to be in at least three different sessions in every time slot – the slower pace of a great dinner with a mix of MSI colleagues and stimulating friends beyond our ranks was a revelation.

With more time to talk at a slower pace, there was only a couple unanswered question – why haven’t we always done this? And if we did it again, how could we better collaborate, and what more could we learn and share?

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MSI Presents at AEA’s 32nd Annual Conference

Each year, the American Evaluation Association invites a diverse group of scholars, students, and evaluators to its annual conference to share and learn from the international practice of evaluation. 2018 marks the 32nd annual meeting and will host a variety of presentations focused around the theme of Speaking Truth to Power. For more about AEA’s Evaluation 2018, visit the event homepage.

MSI has a long history of providing comprehensive and innovative monitoring and evaluation services for governments, organizations, and individual clients. With expertise in providing performance monitoring services across various regions and supporting clients, including USAID, in making programming decisions, our team is heading to Cleveland, OH to share a host of insights and strategies and facilitate discussions on emerging practices in the field. Learn more about our services. 

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Preparing for Peace

Jennifer Ulman, Senior Technical Director for Peace & Stability

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Peace is not only the absence of tension, but the presence of justice.” This powerful sentiment begs the question, how can we as a society achieve it? At MSI, our experts ponder this question regularly by looking at the key elements for sustainable peace.

For instance, building legitimacy of the government at national and local levels, encouraging participatory planning of equal access to economic growth options, and engaging peace advocates across society are fundamental.

We also work to address drivers of conflict specific to countries or regional contexts. From the political and economic marginalization of Rohingya in Myanmar to the financing of a military and security apparatus using oil revenues in South Sudan, each of our development programs has the ability to support peaceful gains or exacerbate tensions. No matter the sector – agriculture, education, health – a conflict-sensitive approach to enhance peaceful outcomes is vital.

In addition, how people of various genders and sexual orientations experience life pre-, post-, and during conflict can drastically differ. Women often take on additional roles during times of conflict as both bread winner and home maker and may be compelled to take up arms while their spouse is off to war. Similarly, individuals in the LGBTI community may find themselves suddenly without their circles of support following conflict or disaster, thus increasing their vulnerability to violence.

We are constantly striving for values and beliefs of all identity groups to be respected and acknowledged — a foundation for peaceful coexistence. 

Bringing Our Voices Together For PeaceCon 2018

To help cultivate changes and a greater understanding into the needs required for effective peacebuilding, each year the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AFP) brings together a network of experts, professionals, and motivated voices to share new perspectives and insights at its three-day conference co-hosted by the U.S. Institute for Peace. AFP is a membership network of over 100 organizations, including some of the world’s largest development organizations, non-profits, NGOs, academic institutions, and peacebuilding groups. This year, MSI is playing a critical role in the annual conference and will lead two panels.

The Next Wave of Conflict Sensitivity

This panel examines the future of conflict sensitivity and the challenges of integrating a conflict-sensitive lens across all development sectors. Our panel of practitioners will share experiences and examples from across the globe to highlight strides and failures of a conflict sensitive approach that will foster a discussion on specific tools for gauging opportunities for peace. The interactive session will include reflections on how we as practitioners can further mainstream conflict sensitivity into our everyday work.

-Panel Moderator: Jennifer Ulman, Senior Technical Director for Peace & Stability, MSI

-Dilshan Annaraj, Associate Director of Peacebuilding Programming, World Vision/Sri Lanka

-Michael Shipler, Associate VP for Strategy and Program Quality, Search for Common Ground

-Ioli Filmeridis, Conflict & Peacebuilding Advisor, USAID/CMM

Understanding the Role and Impact of Gender on Violent Extremism

Participants will learn about the roles and potential roles women play in VE and CVE efforts, including the broader gender contexts that shape women’s agency and that also influence men’s participation in VE. They will have an opportunity to consider the protection and safety of women and girls from VE; how social and cultural contexts shape both VE and responses to it, and the ways cultural narratives about masculinity and femininity, and social, political, and economic structures, shape women’s agency. The panel will further explore thinking on possible areas for research and programming directions for influencing the role of gender in VE.

-Dr. Lynn Carter, Senior Vice President, Tetra Tech/Management Systems International

-Dr. Leslie Dwyer, Associate Professor andDirector, The Center for the Study of Gender and Conflict at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University

-Dr. Christine Fair, Associate Professor, Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service

Join MSI and the diverse changemakers across the industry gathering in Washington, D.C. from October 24 – 26. Register today at

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