Written by: Sanam Bhatia
Interviewed/edited by: Esther Pak, Margaret Miller
Spreadsheets, graphs, tables – they are full of information that can help us better understand family planning and reproductive health in PMA2020 program countries. But behind each data point, there is a story, a person – a woman who has opened up and let our PMA2020 resident data collectors (“resident enumerators” or REs) into her life.
Helina Kebede is an RE from Ethiopia who has first-hand experience interacting with the faces behind the numbers – women in communities where Helina herself lives – who have opened up to her about their family planning knowledge and experiences. Helina has been with the PMA2020 program in Ethiopia since 2014 when the second round of the survey was conducted. For the second, third and fourth rounds of the survey, she was tasked with interviewing selected households and women on key health indicators.
At the beginning of the fifth and most recent round of data collection, Helina was promoted to a supervisor role. In this new capacity she is able to conduct interviews at public health facilities as well as oversee a group of REs. Since becoming a supervisor, Helina has learned important skills in communication, management and relationship building – which are useful not only in her new role, but also for her current pursuit of an MBA degree. Several years prior to joining PMA2020 and deciding on a major to study at university, Helina explains, she had wanted to study computer science, information technology or statistics. PMA2020, as a smartphone-based population survey, has allowed her to combine all those interests.
Being part of the PMA2020 team has provided her additional benefits like friendships. To Helina, PMA2020 has been “just like family, it’s so easy to communicate with everybody.” She has made best friends through the PMA2020 RE network, some of whom even joined her to celebrate her baby boy’s recent first birthday. “I got best friends from there, through PMA. I have best friends I can name. I like them so much,” she explains.
Helina also understands the significance of the data for her country: “It is so important when we have good quality data that we can access, it is so good for the government for planning. I’m doing my MBA and can access the data; it’s good also for students.” Through the data, Helina feels that the women she interviews can help improve our understanding of family planning in Ethiopia. She has spoken to many women who “are dependent on their families and their husbands” and have given up their dreams. She hopes that eventually, more women can make decisions about family planning – and that good quality data can inform policies and programs that can lead to these improvements.
As for her favorite part about PMA2020? She gets to listen to women and their stories, which make the data come alive. “The personal questions that we talk about with women are interesting because it’s so challenging. If they don’t accept you, they won’t tell you anything about themselves. Those questions are interesting for me – where you get their acceptance. The other things can be answered easily. I like the challenging questions.”
For more information on the PMA2020/Ethiopia program, visit http://pma2020.org/program-countries/ethiopia
Photo: Margaret Miller