Why should we bother getting research evidence to people who cannot read or write?

2019-09-13 africa evidence week blog cameroon evidence-informed decision-making informs learns
Why should we bother getting research evidence to people who cannot read or write?

Data from Cameroon suggests that literacy rates for populations above 15 years of age is about 71%, with marked disparity for females at 61%. Rates for indigenous populations, rural populations, or populations with disability is not know but expected to be very low. (UNESCO, 2019) Numeracy rates are even poorer than literacy rates. Communicating research evidence is therefore very challenging as the audience must not only be literate but should have a good numeracy command.

Effective Basic services (eBASE) Africa seeks to improve livelihoods of underserved populations through the use of innovation and best practices. eBASE Africa targets women, children, people living with disabilities, indigenous populations and people living in rural areas in their projects. Through this approach we strive to ensure we leave no one behind.

eBASE Africa has been active in research evidence dissemination to consumers, practitioners, and policy makers. One challenge with getting research evidence to non-literate populations is the fact that they cannot read in the first place. We therefore developed ‘Evidence Tori Dey’ to overcome the literacy barrier and identify with an African culture of storytelling. This approach although effective is quite expensive. Imagine bringing Cardi B or Yemi Alade to work with Ongolo Zogo or Rose Oronje on an evidence implementation project, the costs are bound to be high and the tasks rigourous. however, it is a intervention worth our investments as the returns for access to effective basic services have always been enormous.

Why then must we bother?

1. Breaking the illiteracy and poverty cycle: Research evidence itself can break the illiteracy cycle, this will further break the poverty cycle and make these populations more likely to make better choices for health, environment and other basic services impacting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

2. Better Informed Choices: These populations will be able to make informed choices about treatment or teaching or environmental issues. E.g. illiterate parents can make better choices about education options if they knew the effectiveness of TVET versus general education or if they knew the effectiveness of doing a lab test before treatment of malaria versus not doing a test, or if they knew the effectiveness of using an improved solar cook stove compared to using the regular three stones fireside. These are key decisions that will break the poverty cycle, provide an integrated perspective for basic services and contribute to the SDGs

3. A matter of fairness: a lot of research is done using poor and non-literate populations as participants. It’s only fair that we start sharing synthesized evidence with them and ensure that these results can impact on their livelihoods.

4. #LeaveNoOneBehind #NeLaisserPersonnePourCompte: equity expect that we leave no one behind because of their social determinants of basic services. These populations are the easiest to be left behind and this has always been the case - yet we expect them to blindly accept vaccines, better water protection options or better waste management options.