Research Assistant Opportunity in Uganda

Interested in elections and political accountability? Looking for research experience conducting impact evaluations? Pia Raffler and I are hiring a research assistant for a new study on elections in Uganda. Desired start date is January 2015, running through early 2016. Applications are currently being reviewed, so those interested should submit an application immediately. More information below, and at this link.

Research Associate – Meet the Candidates (Uganda)

  • Reports to: Research Manager
  • Location: Kampala, Uganda with frequent travel up-country
  • Deadline to apply:  Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis
  • Desired start date: January 2015
  • Length of commitment: 16 months

Innovations for Poverty Action seeks a qualified Research Associate to oversee the impact evaluation of an information campaign on voter behavior in the context of the 2015 primary elections and 2016 general elections in Uganda. The intervention will involve the recording of ‘Meet the Candidates’ sessions with Ugandan candidates for political office. Sessions will be recorded and edited by local film crews and will be screened in a random selection of polling station catchment areas. The position offers an opportunity to gain first-hand field management experience in an organization undertaking cutting-edge development research. The Principal Investigators for this project are Melina Platas Izama (Stanford University) and Pia Raffler (Yale University).

Responsibilities: 

  • Coordinating and supervising all data collection activities
  • Closely work with partner organizations, including political parties, on the recording and screening of ‘Meet the Candidate’ sessions
  • Formulating plans to operationalize field activities suggested by Principal Investigators
  • Developing and piloting survey instruments
  • Working closely with the Principal Investigators and the local partners running the program to ensure study protocols are followed
  • Hiring, training, and managing teams of local enumerators that will conduct data collection among business owners, workers, and household members
  • Planning, organizing and reporting on surveys in the field
  • Managing the project data from collection to cleaned datasets
  • Tracking expenses and adhering to the project budget
  • Writing regular progress reports

Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in economics, social sciences, public policy, or related fields; a Master’s degree in any of these fields is a strong plus
  • Training in economics and statistics
  • Excellent management and organizational skills
  • Demonstrated proficiency in Stata and experience with data management, data cleaning, and regression analysis is a must
  • Ability to prioritize and manage multiple assignments simultaneously with minimal supervision
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills. Fluency in English is required
  • Experience conducting field research in a developing country is strongly preferred. Previous experience with impact evaluations and/or randomized controlled trials is a strong plus

Continue reading “Research Assistant Opportunity in Uganda”

Rwanda’s next president

Published online January 16, 2011.

There was quite a kerfuffle following President Kagame’s last visit to Uganda in December 2011. The hoo-ha that played out over the airwaves, news pages and Twitter had nothing to do with the trip per se – relations between Presidents Kagame and Museveni have been warming over the past six months and such visits are becoming the norm – but rather with repeated questions about presidential term limits in Rwanda. Amending the constitution to lift term limits is a relatively new trick in the handbook of institutional manipulations. President Museveni, together with the Ugandan parliament, steamrolled right through term limits in 2005, paving the way for a 30-plus-year reign for the former rebel leader. By the time Uganda marks its Jubilee in October of this year, just a few months after Rwanda’s 50-year celebration, Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Movement will have held power for over half of the post-independence period.

Whether or not Kagame will attempt to follow in the footsteps of Museveni and lift term limits in advance of the next presidential elections in 2017 is a tired argument. Personally, I doubt that he will do so, but neither do I think it would be at all a difficult task. But that is neither here nor there. Just as there will be a South Africa without Nelson Mandela, there will be a Uganda without Museveni and a Rwanda without Kagame. Though there will undoubtedly continue to be discussion regarding Kagame’s candidacy up until 2017, ultimately the more productive debate is the extent to which promising and talented individuals have opportunities today to become tomorrow’s leaders.

I’m not going speculate who the next president will be, but I’d like to float the idea that Rwanda’s next head of state will be a woman. Rwanda has led the way in bringing women into politics and positions of power, and women around the world are making inroads every day into politics, business, academia, and beyond. As in Uganda’s National Resistance Army and Movement (NRA/M), women have held key positions in the government and party of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). The presence of women in politics has been steadily increasing since 1994, and in 2003 Rwanda joined Uganda, Namibia, Mozambique, South Africa, and several other countries in implementing a gender-based quota for legislative seats. In the 2003 election, women won nearly half of all seats in the legislature.

Women have also been well represented in other areas of government and civil society in Rwanda, and have played key roles in rebuilding society in the aftermath of the genocide. Many women have been elected gacaca judges, and women groups have worked to address a wide array of issues, from health to microfinance. As of 2008, Rwanda is home to the only majority female parliament in the world. Women today hold several key ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Louise Mushikiwabo) and the Ministry of Health (Agnes Binagwaho), as well as senior management positions in institutions such as the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). And regardless of your view of her, Victoire Ingabire has emerged as the figurehead of the official opposition in Rwanda.

While women representatives do not alter policy or the playing field overnight, research suggests that women’s participation in politics has the potential to affect both policy and perceptions about women’s abilities. Studies in India found that local politicians invest in public goods that are most important to their lives, and that types of investment differ by gender and location. For example, women tend to invest more in drinking water than their male counterparts. In Rwanda, women parliamentarians have been credited with pushing for the reform of laws regarding issues such as inheritance, discrimination against women and sexual assault.

In addition to the possibility of affecting policy outcomes, some research shows that the presence of women in politics helps to alter perceptions and prejudices about women’s ability to lead and govern. A group of researchers from the US and India found that where women in India held elected positions in local government, initially with the help of gender quotas for these positions, men tended to hold less negative stereotypes about the efficacy of women in positions of authority.

Additionally, exposure to female leaders tended to increase people’s perceptions of women’s abilities over time. Although community members may rate poorly the first woman elected to a position, her successor would generally be rated more favorably. Exposure to women in politics, at least in some settings, appears to reduce negative stereotypes about women’s abilities to govern, and will likely encourage more women to enter the ring.

In Rwanda, many women have had opportunities to develop the skills and experience to lead. While the debate on term limits rages on, it is important to think beyond personalities—however formative or influential—and focus on the processes through which leadership is reproduced. Rwanda’s political system, its many flaws notwithstanding, has allowed women to participate in government and policymaking to a greater extent than in many other countries. These opportunities for leadership will help shape the next generation and next era of Rwanda’s history. It would not be surprising, therefore, if Rwanda’s next president comes out of this network of powerful and promising women leaders.

Women’s leadership in Rwanda has evolved alongside the innovative approaches the country has tested in its recovery from conflict. Like other challenges Rwanda faces, both general and gender-specific, from poverty to maternal mortality, it is to processes and not individuals that attention should be paid.  Despite urgent challenges, real opportunities exist for ordinary citizens, men and women alike, to grow up in good health with a good education. The impact of public health and education policies on Rwanda’s political development may not be obvious now, but will eventually become evident. The democratic space in Rwanda is still being tested and shaped, discussed and critiqued, pushed and pulled. Ultimately the future lies not with an individual, but with a system that allows the next generation of leaders to emerge.

Tackling Global Health: Women and Water

Below is my column, online this week, for the Rwanda Edition of the Independent magazine.

Tackling Global Health: Women and Water

Published online November 29, 2011

History suggests that women and water are essential in conquering the developing world’s health challenges

World Toilet Day came and went without much fanfare. In between using the toilet yourself, you probably missed it. Talking about toilets is not sexy, and discussing water and sanitation is probably not at the top of your list, but it should be. Women and water, specifically clean water, have been responsible for major improvements in health in the developed world and hold enormous potential for tackling its health challenges.

At the turn of the 20th century, some of the top killers in the United States included tuberculosis, pneumonia, typhoid, meningitis, influenza, and diarrhea (for children under two years of age).  In 1900, approximately one in six American babies would not live to see their first birthday, according to one recent estimate. In just thirty years, however, infant deaths in the U.S. had fallen by more than half, to an estimated 70 deaths per 1000, approximately equivalent to infant mortality rates in Rwanda today. What accounts for this tremendous improvement in child health in America?

It is tempting to suggest that new medical technologies led to massive improvements in health, and particularly child health. In the course of the 20th century we saw an unprecedented period of medical innovation, which ultimately led to the widespread availability of life-saving vaccines, antibiotics, and other medical technologies we take for granted today. But what is remarkable is that the decline in mortality, particularly due to infectious disease, occurred before the spread, and often before the invention, of these technologies.

Deaths due to scarlet fever had fallen to nearly zero by the time penicillin, a common antibiotic today, was invented in 1946. Similarly, deaths from typhoid and tuberculosis fell dramatically before the introduction of antibiotics to treat these bacterial infections were invented in 1948 and 1950, respectively. It was not until 1963 that a vaccine to prevent measles was invented, by which point very few people died of measles in the U.S. Most of the decline in mortality from infectious diseases in the U.S. occurred before the introduction of medical technology used to prevent or treat them.

So what accounts for the decline in mortality due to infectious disease? To a large extent, women and water. Recent research by Grant Miller of Stanford University finds that women’s suffrage in the U.S. directly contributed to increases in public health spending in the 1920s. Much of this health spending went toward public campaigns to improve hygiene. Around 20,000 child deaths were averted as better hygiene prevented the spread of deadly infectious diseases. Miller argues that legislators anticipated women support of public funding for health, and voted for more progressive public reforms as soon as they won the right to vote.

In related work, Miller and economist David Cutler find that improvements in water systems in the U.S. between 1900 and 1940, specifically filtration and chlorination, contributed to three quarters of the decline in infant mortality and two thirds of the decline in child mortality during this period. Waterborne diseases were responsible for a large proportion of deaths during this time, particularly in U.S. cities, and water treatment and filtration led to a major decline in these waterborne illnesses.

Today, over one billion people around the world do not have access to clean water, and over two billion to not have access to sanitation facilities. In Rwanda, only an estimated 23 percent of the population had access to adequate sanitation in 2006, and in Uganda only 33 percent. In Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, only eight percent of homes are connected to a sewage line. A greater proportion of the population have access to clean water—64 percent in Uganda and 65 percent in Rwanda—but nearly one third of the population continues to consume unsafe water on a daily basis.

Much of the emphasis on public health today focuses on supply-side factors – on health care rather than health, on curative rather than preventive treatments, on hospitals rather than homes. But history suggests that the greatest improvements in health have taken place within the home, with a focus on preventing infectious disease rather than treating it. Women play a key role in this process. Women are more likely to be in charge of feeding children and ensuring their homes have clean water and adequate sanitation, and some research suggests women tend to place greater value on child welfare (this is why cash transfers programs often target women in the household, rather than men). As we have seen in the U.S., women voters can have a profound impact on legislator behavior and consequently, public policy.

Survey evidence from the Afrobarometer suggests that health is a major concern for ordinary Ugandans, and populations throughout sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, 26 percent of Ugandans said that “improving public services such as education and health” was their top concern, and 50 percent said that health was among the “most important problems facing this country that the forthcoming 2011 elections should address,” and ranked health higher than any of the thirty-odd other policy issues. Whether legislators act on the policy preferences of their constituents is another matter altogether. Nevertheless, the potential of the electorate, and women in particular, to influence public policy should be taken seriously, especially with regard to health.

A focus on hygiene may be as efficacious, if not more so, than the antibiotics and antimalarial drugs that are ubiquitous in public health today. The difference between 1920s America and the developing world in 2011 is that we are not forced today to rely on prevention of disease, because the momentous gains in medical technology allow us to treat the most common causes of death and disability. But this new technology should not become a crutch, and we should not forget the tremendous gains in population health that can be made by focusing on hygiene rather than a vaccine. Toilets may not be sexy, but life without adequate sanitation just stinks.

Voter behavior: does information matter?

The findings of Banerjee et al. (2011) from a field experiment in India using politician report cards seem to suggest yes:

Each report card contained information about incumbent performance along three dimensions – legislative activity, committee attendance and spending of discretionary constituency development funds across eight public good categories. It also provided information on the wealth, education and criminal record of the incumbent and the two main challengers in that jurisdiction. In a random sample of 200 slums, households received a pamphlet on legislator responsibilities and a free copy of a newspaper that featured the report card for their jurisdiction. Households in the 575 control slums did not receive any informational material.
Relative to control slums, we observe several significant changes in voter behavior in treatment slums. First, average voter turnout increased by 3.5 percent, or two percentage points (from 57.5% to 59.5%). Second, cash-based vote-buying was 19 percent less likely to occur in treatment polling stations. Third, while the campaign did not influence the average incumbent vote share, worse performing incumbents and those facing better qualified challengers received significantly fewer votes. The increases in turnout were relatively higher in treatment slums located in jurisdictions where the incumbent was a worse performer.

A similar study has been undertaken in Uganda, using the parliamentary scorecards, by Macartan Humphreys and Jeremy Weinstein. Results linking the scorecard to the most recent 2011 elections forthcoming. There are a number of other studies underway around the world looking at the relationship between information and voter behavior, but the findings are far from being universally conclusive.

Prof. Banerjee will be presenting at the Political Economy Faculty Seminar at the Stanford GSB tomorrow.