oo6. ethical research

For the next presentation, we will be better prepared to present the documentary logistics and answer questions about it. For this first presentation, we had only done research about the topic so we didn’t have much to say about the actual documentary project. This time we hope to strengthen the follow ten things:

  1. Identify a target/intended audience and do it early on in the presentation.
  2. Name potential sponsors who would be interested in this project and how we could reach out to them.
  3. Identify and develop a call to action plan. I would need to discuss this more with my group because we do not know yet who our target audience is so we will need to figure out how we want our audience to respond to the problem of maternal mortality.
  4. Identify the proposed solution and outcome we hope to achieve with this documentary.
  5. Identify what makes Sierra Leone, in particular, have the highest maternal mortality rate.
  6. Describe graphs in more detail.
  7. Have better and more descriptive visual data that portrays the differences in hospital vs. home births.
  8. Identify how we will guarantee people will watch our documentary and do something after we watch it.
  9. Identify specifically what the documentary will be about, which also goes along with the intended audience.
  10. In general, focus less on our research and more on the documentary plan.

My project does require IRB approvals because I will be conducting interviews and filming participants’ responses, both of which require human subjects. And since the human subjects in our research will also include vulnerable people like pregnant women and underage girls, we will need specific approval as well. I will be making sure that I am acquiring informed consent and I will be letting them know what their rights are as well as what will be happening before the interviews so that the participants are fully aware of what this project is about and why they might be in it. They can ask questions and I will fully address the concerns and ensure that these individuals are protected to the best of my abilities. Since there might be a cultural barrier of signing consent forms, I might be getting verbal consent instead and to make sure there is no miscommunication, I will have a translator with me as necessary. Additionally, because I will be interviewing and interacting with pregnant and underage females, I will also need local Sierra Leone IRB approval. In my IRB submission, I will make sure to describe the instruments I will be using such as cameras and microphones for the documentary and make sure that participants in Sierra Leone will understand what these instruments are used for and what the purpose of the documentary is. And because our research is international with non-English speaking populations, I will provide detailed information of local ethics, translation documentations and the type of consent (verbal) I will be getting to get IRB approval.


For my logic model, the input section will include our time, money, and research. We will be getting funded to go to Sierra Leone and develop a documentary plan and in order to go, we will need to be prepared for what we will be doing once we get there. This means that we will need to invest our time to learn how to use camera and other documentary equipment as well as researching the problem of maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. We will also need to plan out what we want this documentary to look like so that we know exactly what to do in the three weeks we are in the country. The outputs will be the direct product we achieve and the people we reach. By the end of this documentary project, different stakeholders will have been interviewed in order to gain a variety of perspectives and we will have produced the documentary film and community networks with people in Sierra Leone. Our outcomes or impacts will depend on who our target audience is but for now we hope to bring awareness to the problem for both those in the West and those in Sierra Leone and encourage people to help reduce maternal mortality rate.

oo5. Philosophy of Engagement

Personally, I am very interested in collages and layouts. Ever since I was a child, I’ve always loved arts and crafts. I loved the physical action of moving things around to look at the bigger picture of all potential final results. Sometimes I would take a minimalistic approach with perfect, neat lines and shapes. Other times, I would take the more chaotic route where there is no white space available. I’ve never understood how to find the middle ground between the two styles until now. As I create my weekly bullet journal layouts, I use a minimalistic approach but forego the straight lines. If I mess up, I adapt and work around the mistake. If I hit a brick wall where my ideas stop flowing, I start to draw random lines. I doodle aimlessly until something appears in my mind. I think I can apply this approach to the Safe Motherhood project when drafting the narrative. Sometimes, I will want to make the storyline grand and other times, I will want to make it minimalistic. I don’t know what parts I will make which way but I do know that when I approach the brick wall, I won’t be giving up. I’ll just throw out random ideas or try to draw lines between existing ideas. Designing requires flexibility and adaptibility and I believe that I have that.

I will validate my project by getting a variety of perspectives through the interviews we conduct on site. It’s important that we do not try to interpret things ourselves and create a narrative that is based on our American/western point of view. It’s essential that we give the stakeholders in Sierra Leone a voice that is prominent throughout the documentary. It is important that when this film is completed, it can change the way people view the Sierra Leone community. It is easy to have a perception of people in Africa being poor and helpless charity cases who are in dire need of western help. I hope that with this documentary, we can show that Sierra Leone has a resilient community. I want this film to preserve their dignity and show that they are innovative and intelligent people who should be respected and viewed no less than what they are. Additionally, technologically speaking, I hope to learn and sharpen my camera skills so that the documentary does not come out lousy and half-assed. Quality and aesthetics are the first steps to making an impression before a message can get across. If the camera work is messy and the film looks inconsistent and blurry, no one will want to watch. I also believe that the quality of a piece of work reflects on how committed I am to getting Sierra Leonean voices heard. Therefore, I hope to work well with my team to start the creation of a high-quality documentary.

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, my goal is to give people a voice. In whatever I do, I want to make sure that I work in a collaborative environment where everyone has a chance to voice their thoughts and suggestions. I do not wish to establish a hierarchy of who’s “better” because I believe everyone has the potential to be the best in their own ways. I don’t want to belittle anyone or make them feel less than what they are. But I do want to encourage and give a kickstarting push to those who need it. Throughout my life, I learned that giving me the answer before I am given the chance to attempt it myself is both inefficient and ineffective. My mentors understood this and encouraged me to give it a try first. They gave me a voice. And that’s what I want to do as a social entrepreneur. I do this work in an attempt to exchange knowledge and practices. I do this fully knowing that there are bound to be a difference, but also that that does not suggest that one is right or wrong. I don’t go in as an expert or someone with the hand of God. Rather, I engage with communities, partners, and markets hoping to get a learning experience out of it.

oo4. Being Resourceful

Nature has acted as a mentor in my life by helping me understand that I should tackle my problems one by one, find happiness in the little things and that fostering a community is more important than competition. Animals don’t try to take on everything at once. If they are hungry, they hunt for prey. If they sense a threat, they are alert at that moment. They don’t try to do everything all at once every waking moment of their lives. They won’t spend their time worrying about something that’s not happening in that moment and neither should I. I should take things slowly and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I learned this one from my own dogs who express joy or sadness or exhaustion whenever they want. They don’t try to control their emotions or put on a front. If they don’t want something, they’ll express it with their actions and expressions. And when they do want something or are happy about something, they wag their tails excitedly, even if it’s a small seemingly insignificant thing that’s making them happy. Finally, animals work together to get things done. The bee communities or ant colonies work as a group instead of competing. So should we.

For me, the most applicable principle of life is the ability to adapt to changing conditions. This means “incorporating diversity,” “maintaining integrity through self-renewal,” and “embodying resilience through variation, redundancy, and decentralization.” Life isn’t always going to go as planned and most of the time, we won’t have control over what happens. To be able to ride the waves and maneuver around the obstacles, adaptability is essential. I need to be open-minded about my diverse options and accept defeat when necessary. But it’s important to note that accepting defeat does not equate to giving up. To be adaptable means accepting defeat but also looking for different ways to make it work. In my Safe Motherhood project, for instance, we will eventually have to develop a narrative of the story our documentary will tell. Sticking to this single narrative would be ideal and make our work easy but as we go out into the field and talk to different experts to get different perspectives, our narrative will have to change. The story will constantly evolve as we find new information in our research and it’s important to be open to this new information.

If I were to describe the cradle to cradle design in one word, I would choose “connectedness.” Everyone is connected in the circle of life and I can incorporate that into my project by connecting my research. Instead of looking at our team’s research topics/pillars as separate entities, we can use information from one pillar and connect it to a different pillar. There is a saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and in this case, if I find something that seems irrelevant in my research, I could recycle it and see if I can use it in another research topic. To be specific, in my Global Capitalism course, I learned about the resource curse and the Dutch disease which I thought wouldn’t serve me any good outside of the classroom but when I learned that the Sierra Leone economy is heavily reliant on the diamond industry, I realized that I can connect what I learned in my class to my research in Sierra Leone to see how these concepts contribute to the high maternal mortality rate.

Everyone learns something new every day and since coming to the east coast for college, the types of friends I made changed since high school, and I learned several new concepts that were somewhat of a cultural shock. One of my friends calls his parents by their first name and this pretty mindblowing because I was raised in an environment where respecting your elders was a huge part of my core values so to be on a first name basis with parents was weird. Another thing I learned from my friends was that their parents permitted them to drink despite being underage, whereas if I drank, my family would probably freak out. Lastly, my friends have a very ambitious and passionate attitude towards leaving an impact during their lifetime. When I asked them if they would rather die painlessly right now or live to 90 and be in incredible pain with failing organs, they chose the latter and I chose the former. It might just be me being the anomaly but it was interesting to see different perspectives.

oo3. Motivations

jessica mun

The five major stakeholders to my project are Traditional Birth Attendants, women who have and haven’t had experience delivering a baby, village and family members, traditional healers, and the overarching Ministry of Health.

The TBAs are essential to the narrative because they play a huge role in acting as the bridge between the local community and the health care system and even the government. The local citizens of Sierra Leone are often distrustful of the government and hospitals. There was an incident where a 13-year-old pregnant girl was delivering a baby alone with a TBA. The door was locked and unfortunately, the girl died in labor before the community health worker came and broke down the door. This act of a government worker breaking down the door was symbolic and only enhanced the locals’ distrustful attitude. Meanwhile, TBA’s are trusted and respected figures by families in the village. And if the health professionals work closely with the TBA’s, together they can bring down the maternal mortality rates and work towards better communication between the government and the villages.

The women who have and haven’t had babies are also extremely important to our narrative because they are essentially the main characters and victims of the high maternal mortality rate. The older women who have given birth are generally more experienced and knowledgeable about the labor process and they are key to making decisions about the delivery of the baby for young women. Because it is a collective decision about how to handle a pregnancy, the older and experienced women are always present during the decision-making processes. Meanwhile, the younger women and girls who haven’t given birth yet are often left out of this process so all they can do is blindly follow what their elders and TBA’s tell them to do.

The other people who are left out of this decision-making process are the other friends and family members who have not had any experience in birthing. This includes men and children and although they may not play such a big role, it is important to hear their thoughts and opinions on what they think is best for the pregnant woman in the household, especially since men are the financial providers and the head of the family.

Traditional healers are also important players in the Safe Motherhood project because these are the accessible village practitioners who people often go to first when they are ill or have other medical emergencies. These healers will treat their community members out of genuine interest to make them better and even accept services in return, instead of money. In my research, I found out that instead of relying entirely on traditional healers or on the health care hospitals/clinics, people will use both forms of treatment which is known as medical pluralism. And I think it is important that both the traditional healers and members of the Ministry of Health are featured in the documentary.

Three ways I will validate my project and enhance my credibility will be by digging deep into the historical and socio-cultural contexts of Sierra Leone instead of viewing it through the lens of American context, talk to experts related to the Safe Motherhood project, and having a guided research outline or plan that will organize my findings. By considering these contexts, I will gain a better understanding as to why and how things are as they are, rather than merely assuming from an American perspective. By talking to experts in the health care field, professors who study in West Africa and know the political, economic, and cultural contexts, and other intellectuals, I will be able to have more credibility since there is only so much I can gather from my research behind a screen. Talking to people who have first-hand experiences will help me get a better sense of the full picture and fill in missing gaps that I myself am not even aware of. Lastly, by organizing my research plan, I can be prepared for the presentations without messily blurting out all of my findings randomly. Having a structure will allow others and me to comprehend the information with better flow and the referees can ask questions easily as well.

oo2. Cultural Differences

jessica mun

During my research, I discovered that I cannot view African culture the same way I do the American culture. The two countries have very different historical and socio-cultural contexts that affect people’s views, norms, and behaviors. For instance, while America has generally moved on from traditional spiritual treatments, a good amount of African countries still rely on their village herbalists and shamans alongside scientific medicine. Another difference is that many African women highly value their children as their form of identity, whereas in America, women are more independent and pursue an identity of their own. In addition, while American women announce their pregnancies to their friends and families all over social media, African mothers keep their pregnancy a secret and private matter because of distrust towards past enemies, co-wives, and even the husband’s sisters.

A reason for these differences is the distinction between the resources available in each context. In America, there is an abundance of technologically advanced medical resources as well as a stable government that requires health care insurance to encourage people to go to hospitals. In Sierra Leone, this is not the case. When it comes to women’s identity, America values education and individualism which is why American women are able to pursue higher education and aim for more ambitious goals while women in Sierra Leone do not have the same resources and values that give them an identity outside of children and their families. Finally, mothers in America aren’t afraid to announce their pregnancies because there is generally a sense of security that people will not sabotage each other if they do not want to face the consequences. However, in Sierra Leone, there is a lack of this security.

Three more cultural issues that are specific to my project are the desensitization of maternal mortality, the importance of traditional birth attendants as the bridge between the government and locals, and polygamous relationships. Because the maternal mortality rate is so high in Sierra Leone, there is a normalization of the events and viewing things in a fatalistic view and I think this is something that needs to be researched more in depth. In a country like Sierra Leone where there is a lack of trust between the government and the local community, a middle-man is needed and in this case, the traditional birth attendants are essential for effective communication to improve hospital attendance. As for the polygamous relationships, though it is not relevant to the majority of the marital relationships in Sierra Leone, it still plays a role because of the distrust and jealousy between co-wives.

Personally, I grew up with a tough-love kind of parenting where depression and anxiety were seen as laziness. Eventually I got used to coping with depressive moods by thinking of it as a lazy phase so I guess that counts as desensitization. I’m not sure about the use of middle-men in American society aside from my parents and mentors like professors and other elders in my life. Just as mother seek advice from TBA’s in Sierra Leone, I turn towards the older and more experienced people in my life who I trust for advice. Finally, although polygamy is illegal in America, the idea of strained relationships within a household is relatively familiar for me because I live with my Korean grandma who is the matriarch of the house and she often clashes with my Mexican mom.

The strong sense of community within the village can be very advantageous and be used as a leverage to address problems. I know that as TBA’s have gotten trained to refer pregnant women to hospitals, most of the women in the village have felt safer and the hospital attendance rate has also increased. In addition to TBA’s, Community Health Workers are also very useful since they are appointed by a community leader and are well-trusted. These people can refer pregnant women and other ill patients to hospitals. Lastly, the use of songs and dances, which are important to local communities, are important tools in educating villages about what people need to do in cases of emergencies and to seek professional medical help. Every culture has different values and beliefs that can be utilized to encourage people to try out new things. Therefore, instead of ignoring seeing traditional practices and “modern” practices as separate entities, we should see them as an overlapping hybrid practice.

oo1. Making an Impact

“The fallacy is to assume that because I have studied and lived in a society that somehow wound up with prosperity and peace, I know enough to plan for other societies to have prosperity and peace.”

Ever since I have discovered this quote by American economist William Easterly, I have reflected a lot on how I can use my privilege and my social upbringing to help others. It is easy to get caught up with knowing how to do things and assuming the right way of doing things coming from a country like America, but everything has its own context and history and culture that needs to be understood first. Discovering the Global Social Impact Fellowship was the best thing that could happen to me and I believe that it is a perfect opportunity that will help me answer my question. What I like best about the fellowship is that its participants take the time to understand the context of the problems before diving in headfirst with an idea or a potential solution that we have no clue if it will work or not. The year-long commitment to researching not just the problem, but the country itself and the social, political, economic, and cultural components that make up the system is an aspect that I absolutely love. I want to take advantage of this program to understand as much as I can about the high maternal mortality rates in Sierra Leone and wrap my head around the context of the issue as well.

When it comes to my goals for this course, as someone who has never left the state of California or experienced a plane ride until college, I have big ambitions to travel around the world. I want to see for myself the different cultures and societies that exist across the globe and directly immerse myself into new communities. I want to experience firsthand that simply because a country is labeled as “developing” or “Third World” or even “traditional,” this does not mean that the people there are not innovative. People easily say that the countries of the global North are “modern,” but this term then suggests that nations in the global South are far behind and beneath us without appreciating the people there. As an anthropology and global studies major, I hope that this course will give me the opportunity to truly understand the concept of cultural relativism and make an impact on communities not by imposing my own lifestyle, but by getting to know the culture and the people first before figuring out ways I can make an impact that is acceptable to them. Additionally, I hope to gain professional skills during my fieldwork and research in this project that will aid me in whatever career I choose to pursue in the future.

As for the eyeglass issue, before I get into the potential solutions, I am aware that in some areas, glasses are socially looked down upon and can act as a barrier for people when they need to find a spouse. I do not really know how to go about that problem but I do believe that having as many people as possible get eye examinations is important for everyone. The first step to creating a solution to an issue is figuring out the extent of the problem and I think that in school settings, teachers should make it mandatory for the students to get their eyes checked up. When doctors from nations that have the resources go to places like Kenya, they should go out to densely populated areas where they will be able to get as many eye check-ups done as possible. From there, for cultures that are more readily accepting of eyeglasses, they should mass produce cheap glasses based on the different averages of their prescriptions and make them available at low prices so that people can afford them.

As for the cultures that see them as a sign of infirmity, since culture is a dynamic concept rather than a static one, eyeglasses should still be made accessible to them. Whether or not people choose to buy the spectacles will be their choice, but they should still be available. There’s bound to be at least some people who will purchase and wear them and perhaps this could start a movement just like cellphones did, especially since people wearing the glasses will now be able to see clearly and eyesight is such a valuable ability that is necessary for performing basic activities in daily life.