A Pilot Ethnographic Study of Informal and Formal Child Protection Systems in Rural Liberia

Diverse child protection risks confront children in Liberia, including child abuse and maltreatment, sexual violence and exploitation, neglect, harmful traditional practices, child labor, teenage pregnancy and trafficking. This pilot child protection systems mapping utilized various ethnographic research methodologies which included community observations, focus group discussions (FGD) and key informant interviews.

The research tools were utilized in a three-stage approach. Researchers began with a period of community observation, which included a transect walk and then community engagement. This period allowed the researchers to assimilate and become familiar with the community and to build rapport for the following two stages. The second stage was comprised of FGDs with a diverse selection of the community and grouped according to age and gender. During the FGDs researchers facilitated an exercise where participants identified and ranked the protection risks to children in their community. The researchers then facilitated a discussion around the top 1 or 2 ranked risks wherein the group mapped out the response within those communities to those risks. Both formal and informal protection systems were identified and discussed. The final stage concluded with key informant interviews conducted by researchers to ask more in-depth questions about systems or processes that were identified in the FGDs and during community observations. Key informants were identified by the community as integral actors to local protection response mechanisms during the earlier stages of the research.

This three staged approach facilitated holistic data collection as researchers built their line of questioning and familiarity with local perspectives and systems.

Published 2019-01-10