ME&A: Assessing Human Trafficking and Gender Activities in Bangladesh

Jul 27 2021

Human trafficking and rights for gender diverse populations (GDPs) were the topics of two recent final performance evaluations conducted by ME&A under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bangladesh Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (BMEL) Activity.

“Critical to foreign assistance that safeguards human rights and supports access to opportunity for all, regardless of gender identity, is a robust monitoring and evaluation system that assesses outcomes and helps USAID’s leadership better target foreign aid and improve U.S. investments going forward,” said John Roscoe, BMEL Chief of Party. “This helps USAID create a ‘learning culture’ that values the sharing of knowledge about what development efforts work or don’t work and why results were or were not achieved.”

ME&A evaluated two USAID-funded activities: the Bangladesh Counter Trafficking-In-Persons (BC/TIP) activity and the Rights for Gender Diverse Populations (RGDP) activity. Both evaluations assessed technical and programmatic validity, success at achieving targeted results and stated objectives, and program and management effectiveness to create recommendations for USAID/Bangladesh. Both of these evaluations were conducted using a hybrid approach due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The goal of BC/TIP – a six-year, $11.8 million activity – is to reduce the prevalence of human trafficking in Bangladesh by strengthening community capacity to identify trafficking victims, improving trafficking victims’ access to assistance, increasing criminal-justice actors’ responsiveness to trafficking victims, and building effective partnerships among stakeholders to combat trafficking. The activity also provides support to victims and those at-risk of child marriage and raises awareness of the serious problems associated with child marriage. BC/TIP’s evaluation used a hybrid qualitative approach, including key informant interviews, small group discussions, and focus group discussions with government and community stakeholders, beneficiaries, and staff from implementing partners and sub-grantee nongovernmental organization partners. COVID-19 restrictions prevented two international experts from traveling to Bangladesh, requiring them to perform their roles remotely.

The goal of RGDP – a three-year, $850,000 activity – is to advance human rights advocacy for GDPs by strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations and alerting policy makers and religious leaders to the human rights and needs of this underrepresented minority group. The activity increases awareness and knowledge among the GDP about their rights, improves access to different public services and legal aids for GDPs through sensitizing service providers and community members, and strengthens the capacity of different stakeholders to advocate and reduce human rights violations against GDPs. RGDP’s evaluation used a hybrid mixed-methods data collection design consisting of a document review, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and an online survey. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, parts of the evaluation were conducted using remote interviewing technologies.

Roscoe noted that conducting these evaluations in the midst of COVID-19, while difficult at times, was crucial. “Human rights and most other development challenges don’t go away during something like the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, lock-down measures and social distancing can increase unmet needs, making evaluations even more important,” Roscoe said. “Thankfully BMEL has been able to continue conducting evaluations, sectoral assessments, and situational analyses for USAID/Bangladesh during the pandemic through rethinking methodologies, adapting workplans in collaboration with USAID/Bangladesh, and utilizing digital technologies to enable remote work.”

The final reports for both evaluations are expected to be released on USAID’s Development Experience Clearinghouse (DEC) over the summer.

About Us: ME&A is an international development firm based in the Washington, D.C. area, providing innovative solutions for economic development and social progress in more than 70 countries. ME&A has conducted more than 200 evaluations and assessments in over 50 countries worldwide for USAID, the U.S. Department of State, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

The BMEL Activity, run from Dhaka, is a $9.4 million USAID contract enabling USAID/Bangladesh to collect and use relevant data to achieve Mission development objectives, enhance the capacity of Mission staff members in learning and knowledge management, and enable evidence-based programmatic decision-making. USAID/Bangladesh awarded BMEL to ME&A under the U.S. General Services Administration Federal Supply Schedule 874, Professional Services Schedule (PSS/MOBIS).