Plan UK launch 2014 ‘Because I Am a Girl’ report

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Yesterday Plan UK launched the 2014 edition of the “Because I am a Girl”/State of the World’s girls report; which contains all the newest research behind world’s leading global campaign for adolescent girls’ empowerment. This year’s topic is “Pathways to Power: Creating Sustainable Change for Adolescent Girls”.

There is a lot to be said about it, and I will definitely dedicate it a few blog posts; for now, I only wanted to say that I am immensely proud to have been part of the team who made this happen.

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I worked for Plan UK as a research intern for 6 months, between November 2013 and April this year. This is where i learned how to do serious qualitative research, how to code in-depth interviews, how to work with surveys in Nvivo and make it spit out pretty graphs and various others such interesting geeky things; but most importantly, I have learned how to turn stories into data and data into stories with creativity and intellectual honesty- and how to do research that *matters*. I’ve been part of an amazingly creative, amazingly supportive team- and for this I am immensely, immensely proud.

More details later; for now I just want to celebrate. Go read the report! (Particularly the ‘Real Choices, Real Lives’ cohort study; that’s the bit I’ve been involved with the most).

Smart people saying smart things

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First of all, Grayson Perry. In the New Statesman. Mandatory reading for anyone interested in gender studies; or class studies, or identity studies.

“When we talk of identity, we often think of groups such as black Muslim lesbians in wheelchairs. This is because identity only seems to become an issue when it is challenged or under threat. Our classic Default Man is rarely under existential threat; consequently, his identity remains unexamined. It ambles along blithely, never having to stand up for its rights or to defend its homeland.”

Then, a series of interesting reactions to UKIP winning the by-election in Clacton:

First, a Fabians report on “Labour’s UKIP Problem” and how it can be overcome; by Marcus Roberts, with research from Ian Warren and Rob Ford (No, NOT the mayor of Toronto, the academic from Manchester who wrote “Revolt On The Right”!).

“There are five critical and high-risk seats under direct threat by UKIP, for both Labour and the Conservatives each:

• Labour seats under direct UKIP threat: Great Grimsby, Dudley North, Plymouth Moor View, Rother Valley, Rotherham

• Con seats under direct UKIP threat: Clacton, South Thanet, Thurrock, Great Yarmouth, Waveney”
IPPR’s Alice Sachrajada: UKIP argue that the UK needs to ‘get back control of its borders’ and should limit ‘the overall numbers of migrants’. Their main vehicle for doing so is leaving the EU, coupled with even tighter controls on non EU migrants. Whatever the merits of these policies – and at IPPR we’re convinced they would damage the UK’s national interests – reducing immigration in such ways would not, in the short to medium term, necessarily reduce the impacts of immigration.”
And finally, William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), on why Europe needs to make immigration easier
“The high-road scenario for migration has to start with a fundamental shift in perceptions; we need to correct the myths and misconceptions that surround migration, and so restore public confidence in governments’ ability to manage migration effectively. That means we need to reaffirm that discrimination and violence against migrants is intolerable. Above all, perhaps, we must create recognition of the overwhelmingly positive contribution migrants have made throughout history by launching an open dialogue about the role of migration in contemporary societies.”

Women denied abortions more likely to stay in abusive relationships

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So, last Sunday, Aug. 28, has been the international action day for the decriminalization of abortion, and last week I have attended a very interesting Amnesty International conference/solidarity event, where I have found out about the plight of women in El Salvador imprisoned for having suffered miscarriages while not having access to medical care and supervision.

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There is evidence that restricting the availability of legal abortion does not appear to reduce the number of women trying to end unwanted pregnancies (see here), what it does lead to is the death of around 70,000 women yearly from seeking unsafe illegal abortions; and the death of women denied the termination of a pregnancy that endangers their lives (often non-viable anyway).

Today on Jezebel, I came across another study, carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco; tracking 862 women over the course of five years. The participants were divided into three groups: women seeking abortions who were within two weeks of the facility’s gestational age limit for the procedure (Near Limit Abortion Group), women who were turned away because their fetus was over that age limit (Turnaway Group) and women receiving an abortion in the first trimester (First Trimester Abortion Group). Each participant was asked questions about physical and psychological violence from the man involved in the pregnancy during biannual interviews.

Continue reading

Headlines in social sciences: visual methods and research PR

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Gillian Rose writes in the Sociological Review about the relation between ‘visual research methods’ and contemporary visual culture: “One of the most striking developments across the social sciences in the past decade has been the growth of research methods using visual materials. It is often suggested that this growth is somehow related to the increasing importance of visual images in contemporary social and cultural practice. However, the form of the relationship between ‘visual research methods’ and ‘contemporary visual culture’ has not yet been interrogated.” Read her article here.

In the meantime, on the LSE’s Impact Blog, Alasdar Taylor warns thatmore science reporting is being done through press releases, many of which tend to exaggerate original research”. “Churnalism”- the practice of reporting press releases or wire copy ad verbatim as news stories is becoming increasingly common, and scientific journalism makes no exception. Consequently, “as the field of science journalism has contracted, the science PR industry has grown to fill the vacuum”.

The problem is that, as  Dr. Andrew Williams, a lecturer in Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies shows in a recent study, “a sizeable proportion of university press releases (30-40%) exaggerated or hyped the research findings or made them more determinist. They also added causal reasons for correlations, made extrapolations from animal research into humans and added other inferences not present in the original publication.”

The recent case of David Cameron presenting misleading/improperly read statistics in a Daily Telegraph article only highlights that this is a discussion we need to be having: while we have access to more information than ever, our attention spans are, if anything, shorter. Images and statistics are both powerful tools for shaping our perception/understanding of the world; but as we attempt to digest as many information as possible in simplified, quick-and-easy form, the picture we get may be (deliberately or not) distorted.

Headlines in social science: objectification and sexual coercion

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Researchers from Bridgewater State University find that if a woman is objectified in a relationship, it’s more likely that her male partner will sexually coerce and pressure her. In the study, questionnaires were applied to 119 men and 162 women to measure how much men tend to think about and find importance in how their female partner looks and their attitudes towards sexual pressure/coercion (beliefs like “It’s the woman’s responsibility to provide for her partner sexually” and “My partner should have sex with me whenever I want to have sex”).

The results show that the more men focus on the way their partner looks, the more likely they are to scrutinise her physically and feel shame about her appearance; but also the more likely they are to pressure her sexually.

The study appeared in Psychology of Women Quarterly and can be read here.