Laterite rwanda acasi 2
Case study

Voice assisted surveys to collect sensitive data

Using technology to better understand gender-based violence in Rwanda.


The UK Department for International Development (DFID)’s What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls programme seeks to understand and address the underlying causes of gender-based violence, and to stop it from occurring. The programme supports primary prevention efforts across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In Rwanda, What Works is supporting the Indashyikirwa project (“champions of change” in Kinyarwanda). Indashyikirwa aims to change community social norms and behaviors that perpetuate gender inequality and gender-based violence. What Works teamed up with Laterite to deliver a rigorous evaluation of the Indashyikirwa project.

A key challenge in all research related to gender-based violence is: how can researchers study highly sensitive topics in a way that is unobtrusive and that makes respondents feel comfortable enough to share their true experiences and opinions without fear of judgement?


Laterite supported this evaluation by rolling out one of Rwanda’s first ever voice-assisted surveys on a sample of over 1,600 couples and 3,000 community members.

We used audio computer-assisted self interviewing (ACASI) software loaded on iPod touch devices to conduct this survey. First, we recorded the questions verbally in Kinyarwanda. The software then reads the question and response options aloud, along with the number that corresponds with each option. The respondent then touches the appropriate answer on the screen.

Voice-assisted surveys take the interviewer out of the survey process, allowing the respondent a level of confidentiality and anonymity they would otherwise not have. Voice assistance also allows for self-reporting among low literacy populations. In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests self-completion specifically increases disclosure rates in studies on gender-based violence.

Due to the deeply sensitive nature of the topics, Laterite ensured that both survey teams and respondents had access to a therapist for psychological support during the roll-out of the project.


The study generated new evidence on how an innovative intervention is affecting gender-based violence. In addition, we found that the vast majority of people were able to complete the surveys on their own, even in the most remote areas of the country.

This is one of few examples in a development context that data has been collected from both male and female perspectives within couples, providing a very rich dataset for researchers to work with.

Read more about Indashyikirwa.