Meet the researcher: Stella Mukasa

Article Date

29 December 2014

Article Author

Kasey LaFlam

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

All year, you’ve heard about ICRW’s amazing research and programs, which are helping organizations, individuals, and decision-makers in the international development community better understand challenges to empowering women and girls to end poverty. But you may not know about the people behind the research and programs. ICRW’s Meet the Researcher series is designed to give you insight into ICRW’s staff who are working around the world to ensure that every woman and girl around the world has a chance to succeed. Today, you’ll meet Stella Mukasa, who directs ICRW’s work on Gender Violence and Rights.

How do you describe your work and ICRW’s work to your friends/family?

Women’s empowerment and gender equality are very essential components of improving the quality and the reach of development interventions. So what we do at ICRW – we use research and advocacy as tools that promote these important issues, including women’s empowerment and gender equality, along with the aim of improving the quality and reach of development interventions.

What is most meaningful to you about the work you do?

First and foremost, the work we do helps make women’s voices heard, on what their issues and priorities are. I imagine that one individual woman has an issue, in a certain part of the world…But then you bring a research lens to it, and you get the voice of not just one woman, but many more, and that becomes, to a certain degree, representative of many women living in that context, in that part of the world. As researchers, we get to amplify those voices. That one individual woman would never be heard on their own, even if they wished to, they would never. So we facilitate that voice amplification. An example is the research conducted by ICRW on the Cost of Violence Against Women in Uganda, Morocco, and Bangladesh. The research brought to light the out-of-pocket costs incurred by survivors of domestic violence on health care and justice and the implications of these expenses to their households.

Secondly, when we amplify those voices from their small worlds and contexts, we are able to draw attention to the critical issues that are important for development interventions. The Cost of Violence research draws attention to the direct and indirect costs of violence against women which is an issue of public policy. ICRW’s ground breaking research on gender and HIV and the Solutions Paper on Child Marriage are other examples. Really critical because, as you begin to see how the findings from the research are received, if we hadn’t done this, it would not have been thought about. So that becomes really meaningful for me that we draw attention to really important and critical issues that would have otherwise been neglected.

Thirdly, we facilitate the uptake of solutions and good and promising practice, for interventions that address gender inequality and women’s empowerment. By being engaged in collecting the evidence–not just knowing what the issues are, but also what the solutions could be or are and which ones are working well, and bringing them into practice throughout the community, we facilitate that uptake. That for me is also really meaningful. Those are the three levels at which I perceive the importance of the work we do.

What has been your most memorable moment at ICRW?

That’s a very unfair question! I say so because, for me, the moment is reflected in so many others. In the sense that every time ICRW launches a report, every time ICRW has an event, every time ICRW showcases the work we do— the evidence, the research products, the tools, the frameworks —it feels so special to be part of the crowd that is behind these very insightful, groundbreaking, exciting pieces of work. One of those moments for me was the launch of the final report on the Young Men’s Initiative in the Balkans where ICRW was the evaluation partner to CARE Balkans.  The evaluation reveals that understanding the gender norms and notions of masculinity that contribute to violent behaviors– and engaging young men to critically reflect on and address these social constructs – can help foster more gender-equitable attitudes and reduce violence.  So for me, you can’t refer to one memorable moment because, that moment happens every so often.

Why should people support ICRW?

If you are interested in investing in the search for solutions to assist more than 50% of the world’s population to leave poverty behind, you should support ICRW. That for me entails saying…You would support the search for solutions to reduce the figure of 1 in 3 women experiencing violence—physical, sexual, psychological—in their lifetime. You would be making a contribution to ICRW’s research on engaging men and boys in the promotion of gender equality, and prevention of violence against women and girls.  You would be making an investment towards reducing the number of girls that are married before their 18th birthday, more than 14 million around the world annually.  You would be stemming the challenge of suicide as the number one cause of death among adolescent girls, ages 15 to 19. You would be moving the needle to help  women secure their land and property rights around the world. You would do ALL this through supporting ICRW.

If you could have dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

I would love to have dinner with Elton John to just let him know how much I admire his voice. The lyrics are something, but the voice…let it be Elton John!

What is your wish in the coming New Year?

My wish for 2015 is to see an increased investment in the prevention and response of violence against women especially in conflict and post-conflict settings. The area of mental health and psychosocial support services for survivors of sexual and gender based violence in these settings deserves increased attention, especially in examining and disseminating promising interventions.

But over and above that, I wish for peace in the world. Honestly, peace. When I see Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Iraq…I would really love to see peace in the world.