Last week, my field assistant, a family planning trainer, three distributors and me traveled to a Meatu district village to practice household visits and family planning consultations. Two of the trainers are absolutely fantastic, dynamic and encouraging. The trainer who traveled with us last week was not one of those two.
Once we got out to Sapa village, one of the distributors and I visited a small household with a 35-ish year old woman, who had a baby on her back, and was sitting over a pot of simmering rice. I sat listening to the conversation, which dabbled between Swahili and Kisukuma (the local tribal language), trying not to be too invasive in this personal discussion. There was some mention of the clinic and being sick. She pulled out the family planning questionnaire from her bag and began asking the questions. Meanwhile, the trainer came over to supervise the conversation and sat between the distributor and myself. When the distributor got to the last question about whether the woman wanted to take any contraceptives, which is meant to facilitate discussion about which method may be the most appropriate, the trainer swooped in and began to mansplain to her why yes, in fact she does want them. [A small apology to JAJ for the condescending vocabulary choice, but mansplain is, in fact, entirely the most accurate word for this situation.] I began to interrupt and he spoke to me in English, which the distributor and interviewee both cannot understand: “Does she want to take family planning? Yes is the answer.” He took the questionnaire from the distributor and marked the “ndiyo” (yes) box. I explained in meager Swahili that I wasn’t sure she had actually said yes since she indicated that she had been sick. “Yes,” he said, “the hormones gave her psychological problems.” Well, hello, then it is understandable that she might say no to this question. I tried to explain that if she actually says that she does not want contraceptives, it is not a problem for the form, regardless of the reason. If she says no, we should mark the box no. “Ah,” he said, “family planning, it is a process.” To him, I think this means that “no” is only acceptable for the first few visits, but then, of course “yes” is the right answer. This seems to be his interpretation of the objective of my research, which he is very happy to hand to me on a silver platter.
I later explained this to my field assistant, who is excellent at translating my worries into clear directions in Swahili. But I still have a lingering concern that this trainer may have imparted the notion that we are only looking for the right answer, which is yes, everyone wants contraceptives.