The Gender Innovation Lab at the World Bank conducts impact evaluations across countries in Sub Saharan Africa to identify development solutions that are effective in addressing gender gaps. In Uganda I worked with the GIL team on two impact evaluations related to property rights, a topic covered extensively in my first year at GHD. It was eye opening to see these classroom discussions around gender and property rights playing out in real life.
Most of the land in Uganda is held under customary ownership and tenure security plays a huge role in investment incentives and therefore, productivity. Furthermore, customary ownership tends to be biased against women, with the male spouse typically in control of the land and the income it generates. The first impact evaluation is a collaborative effort between the Gender Innovation Lab and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development [MLHUD] in Uganda and examined the impact of joint titling [gender equality in land ownership] on household welfare. GIL had already collected baseline data and I joined this project during the phase of cleaning the data, producing summary statistics and writing up a baseline report. The second intervention is in collaboration with a private sector firm, Kakira Sugar Works Limited. It is investigating the impact of transferring sugar cane contracts that are typically in the name of the male spouse to their female counterpart and its affect on household welfare, bargaining power, agricultural investment and productivity. I joined this project in its preliminary phase and traveled to Jinja, in Eastern Uganda, to pilot the questionnaire. Though the interviews were in the native language, Lusoga, it was enlightening to spend time with the families that the intervention would impact and to contribute towards iterations of the questionnaire. Towards the end of my internship, I had the opportunity to be a part of the enumerator training, before data collection officially began.
Prior to the internship, I hadn’t anticipated packing such an array of learnings into two months. I experienced the friction that ensues between various partners involved in the intervention: battling between leveraging the potential for agency, managing varied interests, while keeping the intervention and the people at the forefront. Despite my preliminary understanding of the impact evaluation field, I was trusted with several key tasks. Though extremely challenging, the internship allowed for an incredibly fulfilling and steep learning curve. The GIL team’s organizational culture taught me about work ethics and motivation. I found the greatest frustration and joy in Stata. Given my limited experience and the heavy need of the software through the two months, I struggled, but ended the internship loving Stata.
As a low-income country with a conflict ridden past and a small middle class population, Uganda has some striking social divisions. To me, the most salient divides existed between Indian Ugandans and native Ugandans and between expats and local Ugandans. Since this was my first time engaging in development in a country other than my own, my most compelling learning came from observing these divisions. The division between expats and locals allowed me to realize the reality of certain development critiques. I found it difficult to reconcile this divide, given that almost all the expats in Kampala were working in development and that as a group, we are [or should be] acutely aware of the implications of division by race. This seemed to be further perpetuated by the wage gaps between expats and locals. These deep-rooted, structural problems are counter-productive to the development narrative, which is built on erasing segregation and fighting injustice. I finally saw the criticism that compares parts of development to colonialism play out and it will be vital in helping me craft a more conscientious development story for myself.