International Development Research & Learning

ActionAid Ireland is committed to building on  international development research and best practices. We have ongoing relationships with Dublin City University (DCU) and the Centre for Behaviour Change (CBC) in University College London..

ActionAid Ireland is collaborating with DCU as part of the Enterprise Fellowship 2020-2022. The project, funded by Irish Research Council and led by post-doctoral research fellow Dr Arpita Chakraborty, is inspecting the effect of the caste system on sexual violence survivors’ access to medical care in India and Nepal. Read more.

ActionAid Ireland is also collaborating with Dr Niamh Gaynor, Associate Professor in DCU’s School of Law and Government, who was one of nine DCU academics awarded grants in the Irish Research Councils, New Foundations scheme in May 2020. Dr Gaynor’s work will involve exploring the potential for political activism among women’s groups and networks in North-East and South-East Kenya. Read more.

We also recently published a Behaviour Change Manual in collaboration with University College London, following the successful implementation of their Behaviour Change approach in a development context for the first time. Read more.

ActionAid Ireland research on caste and sexual violence in Nepal and India

In keeping with our goal to end gender violence in Nepal under our Women’s Rights Programme, Dr Arpita Chakraborty’s research project focuses on one of the most marginalised groups in South Asia. Dr Chakraborty is joining our group of past and current researchers on women’s rights and sexual violence and is being advised by our Sexual Harassment, Exploitation and Abuse (SHEA) global team. Our partner organisation ActionAid Nepal will be collaborating in fieldwork activities on the ground.


Both in India and Nepal, the caste system is a practice of assigning people to a particular hierarchical social ladder by birth. Dalits are the lowest in this social division, and face discrimination due to their low caste stature in all aspects of their lives. Dalit women are most vulnerable to sexual violence, and their chances of accessing medical care is restricted by casteist practices among medical health professionals.

Photo: Dr Arpita Chakraborty. Photo taken by Cristian Medina Gambin

Research aims

The aim of this research is to examine the effects of the caste system and casteism on medical practices in India and Nepal, and how technological innovations and policy changes can be used to improve the situation for survivors. It deals with the experiences of women from lower castes (Dalits) post incidents of sexual violence, the medical services available to them, and their experiences of accessing these services.

While the effect of casteist practices on the healthcare system and medical staff has been the subject of enquiry, the influence the caste system has on survivors of sexual violence from a Dalit community remains under-researched. This project asks: what are the key barriers that prevent lower caste women survivors from accessing healthcare and how can these barriers be overcome? The objective is to determine how caste identities affect medical practices and access to medical facilities for sexual abuse survivors from lower castes in India and Nepal.


A secondary objective is to see whether a centralised data collection system can be used to remove these barriers. Both India and Nepal have a high level of mobile internet connectivity, and there is the possibility of using technological innovations like the app MediCapt to counter this barrier. The project would provide policy recommendations on improving the treatment of sexual violence survivors who face the additional barrier of caste discrimination.

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in learning more about this project, or collaborative opportunities, get in touch with us at or follow our Twitter handle @sexual_medical.

Engendering local governance: Exploring the potential for political activism among women’s groups and networks in North-East and South-East Kenya

Dr Niamh Gaynor’s research will involve exploring the potential for political activism among women’s groups and networks in North-East and South-East Kenya.  Dr Gaynor will collaborate with ActionAid through our Irish Aid, Department of Foreign Affairs funded, Womens Rights Programme in Kenya.  Her research is funded by the Irish Research Council.

Photo: Dr Niamh Gaynor carrying focus group research on local governance  with a women’s group in 2014 in Matadi, Bas Congo province, DRC.  Photo taken by: Christine Mansiantima.


Much work has been done on mechanisms to increase the number of women in formal politics. Yet, both research and experience show that women’s presence in political office does not necessarily translate into the pursuit of policies of gender equality. This is because quotas can be politicised and employed to strengthen ruling party powers through the strategic recruitment of women who are unwilling or unable to question and challenge authoritarian leadership. It is also because women may lack experience of public debate and office. Lacking the skills and capacity to recognise and articulate interests, build alliances, broker differences and learn modes of cooperation and consensus-building to advance common projects, they may prove ineffective legislators who can be easily manipulated.

In Kenya, although the 2010 Constitution introduced a two-third gender quota at national and local levels, women still face significant challenges as party power; campaign finance mechanisms; gendered attitudes about women’s leadership; and the pervasiveness of (often gendered) violence in elections persists. In short, women’s presence alone is insufficient to ensure gains in gender equality. Spaces are needed where women can build alliances and develop their political skills and capacity.

Research aims

This research looks to community-based groups and networks as sites for such political apprenticeship. Specifically, in the context of ActionAid’s work in Garissa and Kishushe in Kenya, it aims at exploring the potential of women’s groups and networks to help build alliances and develop political skills and capacity to engage in and with a range of local governance institutions at village, ward and county levels.

Want to learn more?

If you want to find out more about this interesting piece of research, contact Niamh at

CHY Number 6888, Company Registration Number 95403, Charity Reg. No. 20013790

Web Design Agency