As we drove around the city, it was difficult to take in all of the activities that were going on around us. I found it amazing that so many people could be in one place at the same time, especially on what was considered the quietest day of the week. Every inch of the streets were being used, from women sitting selling herbs or doing work to pile and piles of rubble and rubbish. A thing that shocked me when driving out of Bangalore and towards the villages was the extent of the dry land and how many lakes had dried up. Population growth has put pressure on water resources through increased demand of water and the need to extend infrastructure out onto the arable land. It was not until seeing the dried up lakes that this issue became very evident and pressing to me, especially as with population growth this issue is only going to get worse. I have found this field trip to be an experience I will never forget. This trip has given depth to what we learn and a greater understanding that there is more to the world than what appears on paper.
Having spent 5 days in India, I feel that it has been an experience that I will never forget. The experiences I have had whilst in Bangalore have taught me a lot about life for people in India and how to conduct research using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Bangalore is an interesting and diverse city that needs much longer than a week to understand fully but I feel that I have scratched the surface during my here. What struck me most were the huge advertising boards trying to sell luxury apartments and the large amounts of construction occurring on the road into Bangalore. The massive urban sprawl that has made this city the size it is today shows no sign of letting up.
The one thing that always astounds me about Bangalore is the stark diversities within the city and surrounding rural areas. One moment you can be driving down a street that is not dissimilar from home, with towering glass buildings and flashing advertisements. But when you look a bit closer you notice the lady sat on this exact street willing people to buy fruit from her, the old man begging for money from passers-by and the young children playing amongst the mass amounts of rubble that litter the streets. When visiting some of the villages I felt like we had almost stepped back in time, into places that were isolated from the modern world, still submerged in traditional Indian culture in every aspect. Then someone’s mobile phone would ring. Or you’d pass the house of the village chief with an expensive car parked out the front, guarded by a tall metal gate. There are snippets of modern day life amongst poverty. I find this bizarre, fascinating and frustrating.
When seeing and talking to the women involved in the income generation project it made me look the quality of someone’s life in a wider view than I did before. In England, if I had looked on paper about the impact of the projects on finances and autonomy, I may not have thought that the project has changed the women live that much. However, when talking to them, I never knew that something as small as a community network could make such a positive impact on a person’s life. And that is a lesson I will take from this trip – never to underestimate the power something that may not otherwise be considered crucial can have in breaking the poverty cycle.
On Wednesday, my group went to the Belaku office to look at the quantitative research that the trust had collected using questionnaires conducted in 80 rural villages. The data was collected from over 600 pregnant women and asked about the healthcare that they received prior to and during delivery. We used SPSS to create frequencies, crosstabs and chi-squared tests to investigate the quality of care delivered to the women. There were five questionnaires in total and we looked at the initial, antenatal and post-delivery questionnaires to get a feel of the data and what the women were asked. We decided to focus our research on technical and non-technical aspects of care during the antenatal period and at delivery.
Today we conducted the qualitative interviews of the women working in the paper factory that’s part of the income generation projects. Before today I had regarded Qualitative research with the sort of condescension as a parent telling their child that their drawing is wonderful and that the child is so clever for producing something so interesting and unique and then throwing it in the bin as soon as said child has left the room. However today was rather the revelation for me as the amount of information that we were able to uncover about the women in such a short amount of time was almost surreal. Their willingness to share information and the ease with which they talked about their lives with us was remarkable, though perhaps due in part to their practice at answering such questions. It was extremely difficult for me to keep to the question line, as all i wanted to do was ask them more and more questions about maternal health issues and gender issues, which aren’t relevant to the study but which I find fascinating. It was an adjustment to work with a translator but I found the process to be quite smooth and relatively painless, no doubt due in large part to the practice and skill of both translator and respondent. So, while I could rave about how interesting I found this methodology in practice for hours, I shall not, merely say that I am pretty humbled for not taking it seriously enough before
The process of starting qualitative research was difficult at first as questioning people about what I would deem personal ‘reflections’ on their life seemed like a difficult task for the researcher and the interviewee. My personal reservations soon dissipated as I found the interviewees were open and responsive even though I was nervous and unskilled. The use of a translator was a daunting task but the skill and empathy of them put me at ease and may be a substantial part of the reason I have a new found respect for qualitative research.
Before this qualitative research experience I found myself drawn towards quantitative research due to the precision and scientific basis but this experience has shown me how qualitative research can give you a deeper understanding and a better perspective on the topic. With qualitative research you are able to understand each individual’s starting point and circumstances. The deeper understanding enables you to clearly state what has changed in each individual’s circumstances and what progress they have made instead of grouping them all together and starting them all on the same base and trying to measure progress.