Dignity Without Danger: Opportunities and Challenges of Engaging Partners in Collaborative Action Research
In order to reduce the suffering, discrimination and violence against menstruating women and girls, and to promote partnership for sustainable human development, we have identified a need to work with local actors and communities. Previous research highlighted the need for a multi-sector, multi-agency, evidence based research approach in order to uncover and challenge discriminatory practices and produce policy and practical recommendations (Standing & Parker 2018). Research needs to be more collaborative and participatory in nature if it is to realise its full potential but what do we mean by this? A diverse range of terms are found within participatory approaches to research such as Participatory Research (PR), Action Research (AR), Participatory Action Research (PAR), Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) and Collaborative Research (CR) to name a few.
The project utilises a collaborative action research paradigm (Ozerdem & Bowd 2016, Beebejaun et al 2014)) and inductive qualitative creative ethnographic methods to deliver a study that will engage local populations (across ages, castes and genders) that capture local voices, relate to oral history and text based sources as well as explore experiences and cultural norms (stigmas, taboos and exclusionary practices). This evidence based research will inform policies and practices
In this BA/GCRF funded project we are working with academics, NGO partners and researchers working in the field of menstrual health on the ground, to build research capacity in Nepal, and co-design the research process by embedding training into the plan of action. Partners were selected to represent the 3 key sustainable development goals connected with menstruation namely health (SD3), education (SDG 4), water and sanitation (SDG 7) with all having a strong focus on gender (SDG 5). This will strengthen links between policy makers, practitioners and researchers to develop more effective sustainable partnerships (SDG17) and facilitate strong pathways to impact. Through conducting collaborative action research we will unravel untold, often secret, forms of intangible heritage surrounding menstruation, held within diverse practices and traditional belief systems. Navigating discursive fields will enable us and our partners to ultimately promote dignified periods for menstruating women and girls in Nepal with potential for application in other cultures who practice menstrual exclusion. This paper reflects on how these partners were engaged in a meaningful ‘genuine’ manner in the research process and how we addressed one of the main limitations of collaborative participatory research which is engaging participants in all stages of the research process including research design, data analysis and dissemination (Parker 2005). The paper will draw on theories of participatory development and collaborative action research and make recommendations for others engaged in this type of collaborative research.