Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation and Research: Reflections on the Research Approach Used to Understand the Complexity of Maternal Health Issues in South Sudan

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Many methodological approaches have been used to understand cultural dimensions to maternal health issues. Although a well-designed quantitative survey with a representative sample can provide essential information on trends in behavior, it does not necessarily establish a contextualized understanding of the complexity in which different behaviors occur. This article addresses how contextualized data can be collected in a short time and under conditions in which participants in conflict-affected zones might not have established, or time to establish, trust with the researchers. The solution, the Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation and Research (PEER) approach, is illustrated through a study whereby South Sudanese marginalized women were trained to design research instruments, and collect and analyze qualitative data. PEER overcomes the problem that many ethnographic or participatory approaches face—the extensive time and resources required to develop trusting relationships with the community to understand the local context and the social networks they form.

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