Collaborating with Ethiopian Youth To Conduct Field Research for Contraception
Adolescents 360 (A360) is a four-year project aimed to increase access to and uptake of voluntary modern contraception among adolescent girls (15-19 years old) in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria. The project fuses public health, marketing, human-centered design, developmental neuroscience, and cultural anthropology and will meaningfully engage young people in the design and delivery of solutions that respond to their specific and varied needs. A360 is led by Population Services International, together with IDEO.org, the Center on the Developing Adolescent at the University of California Berkeley, Triggerise, and the Society for Family Health Nigeria. A360 is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.
The young people brought a deep understanding of what life is like for young people in Ethiopia.
PSI’s Taylor Vaught caught up with Eyerusalem, Kenna and Eliyab, all 18 years old, to learn a bit more about them and their work with A360.
- What excites you the most about being a part of Adolescents 360?
Eyerusalem: I can’t explain it with words. My dream is to be a change agent and positive influence not only in Ethiopia but also around the world. I am very happy to be involved in this research.
Eliyab: I have a wider knowledge now. I learned about things happening in Afar and other regions of Ethiopia.
- What was it like conducting field research?
Eyerusalem: I was trying to be neutral as an interviewer. I learned about punctuality, politeness and leaving the decision to the interviewee about whether or not to continue with certain questions. It inspired me.
Kenna: We were in the region of Oromia for 11 days. We talked to many people from community influencers to adolescent girls. The adolescent girls in Oromia, most of them were shy, we first had to cheer them up and after that they told us many things that I didn’t know before. They told us lots of things that will help us for the research. It was really good to learn from them.
- What was it like to work on a research team with people from NGOs and design thinking firms?
Kenna: People from PSI and IDEO.org really helped us out. They were guiding us. I felt like I was really a part of this research even if I don’t have the qualifications like they do. I felt fully involved.
- What surprised you about the research?
Eliyab: A lot surprised me, but I think I was most surprised by how interviewees seemed to want to protect their community. For example, people would say “Where I live this doesn’t happen, but maybe in other areas it happens.” They seemed very protective.
Kenna: Husbands and girls only know the name [contraception], but they really don’t know about how to use it.
Eyerusalem: Adolescents understand how contraception works, but they have a fear of rumors, culture and norms that keep them from using any.
- What was your biggest learning about yourself during this process?
Eyerusalem: I believe if I want to do this, I can do this. I am really inspired. The biggest learning is my inspiration to be a change agent and a positive influencer.
Kenna: Before I started working as a young designer at PSI, the point of view I had for research was a whole different thing. I thought it was just asking a question. Now I know that it means interviews and learning from people. I learned that it’s about listening and eventually bringing solutions to the people. I learned about how to interact with others and with a different community. I got to meet lots of people — the people I interviewed and the people I worked with. This really upgraded my attitude for how I think. It’s definitely going to help me in my career.
Eliyab: I learned a lot. I didn’t know a lot about these things. I never even thought about a need for contraceptive users. I never even thought about it.
- What is the impact of having young people, such as you, involved in the project?
Eliyab: It’s easier to talk to young people as a young person myself. For example, I myseIf don’t talk to older people about my issues. I talk to my friends or brothers and sisters who are closer to my age and I tell them the truth about anything. But if you talk to older people here, there are red lines you don’t cross. There are things you don’t say. So, it’s easier for adolescents to interact with us when they might be more afraid to talk to an older person.
Eyerusalem: The young people are more in tune with the adolescents. They can understand their feelings better than anyone else.
- Anything else before we go?
Kenna: I’m so thankful that I had this job. This job is going to help me in my future after I graduate. I really want to thank you. This is a point in my life that I will never forget.
September 30, 2016