Research and policy advocacy is one of the major areas we are looking forward to establishing. We will start to publish the work that we have done in identifying areas of development work that matters. We will also review key policy areas that governments have introduced, and highlight how they affect local communities and peoples. We are presently looking at country-specific development objectives, community integration mechanisms, women empowerment, disability and youth unemployment and crime. We will produce scholarly articles, and evidence-based research work.
Some of the issues we will be looking at are, for example, the impact of post-war rehabilitation on women; how best to manage integration and economic self-reliance, youth prostitution, engaging local farmers, land use, the environment and disability.
For instance, one question emerged recently when working on the information for the disability section of our website. According to official figures it appears that 18% of the UK population is registered as living with some form of disability, compared to only 10% of the Sierra Leonean population. We suspect that this is due to great differences in definitions of disability between the two countries; how do you define disability, and how do you measure it? In Sierra Leone the official standard for measuring disability is almost entirely based on visibility, which is a legacy of the events of the civil war which left many with very obvious physical impairments. This is an example of the kind of research question that our work raises, which leads us to seek better policy understanding in providing support.
For this purpose, we have now formed partnership with Mobility Sierra Leone, a leading disability organisation in the country. We will be supporting Mobility Sierra Leone with mobility aids, tools and other resources. In addition, we will be doing research and advocacy work together.