I was so elated when I found out that I had been offered the Research Intern position at Population Council to work on their Adolescent Girls Initiative-Kenya (AGI-K) study. This randomized, controlled trial is designed to test whether a combination of interventions, targeting education, wealth creation, health, and violence prevention, can improve the well-being of adolescent girls aged 11-14 as they transition to adulthood. The primary outcome of interest is to delay marriage and childbearing, although there exist several secondary outcomes that span all of the intervention sectors.
As I have progressed through my studies at UCLA, I began to develop an increased interest in women and children’s health and girl empowerment initiatives. Not only does this study provide an opportunity to gain additional insight into the vulnerabilities faced by young girls in sub-Saharan Africa, but it provides a unique learning experience in terms of how, as global health researchers and pracitioners, we may be able to implement sustainable and meaningful programs to combat these vulnerabilities. I knew it would be the perfect project for me.
After arriving in Nairobi, I had 3 days to adjust before starting at the office at 8 AM sharp on Monday morning. I have to admit, I spent most of these early days in the room of the apartment I rented from Airbnb, getting to know my “host” family, and desperately trying to adjust to the 10 hour time change. That first morning I decided to make the 30 minute walk to the office, admittedly too scared to try public transportation (I am happy to admit that I have since gotten over this fear). The streets and sidewalks were busy and muddy from the recent rains. Multitudes of buses and matatus (small vans also used for public transportation) would roar past, letting off a puff of exhaust in your face as they did. That is the most unpleasant part of the walk and something I had still not gotten used to. But regardless, I really enjoy making this daily trek to and from the office, greeting passerby with a friendly “Jambo” (hello), and admiring the fresh produce being sold on street-side carts or kiosks. It really is a vibrant, lively city. The energy is undeniable.
Walking up to the building that houses the Council’s office (pictured above), I am immediately impressed. I love the bright red brick and angled glass overhang over the parking lot. After arriving, I am quickly briefed on the project, my responsibilities, and introduced to all of the colleagues by the Principle Investigator of the project. It just so happens that my preceptor is out of the office until the end of the week, but that does not mean I’ll be taking it easy by first few days. Monday mornings at the Council always begin with an all-staff meeting where a team-member is chosen to give a presentation on their particular project, whether it be a progress report, dissemination of final results, or a step-by-step on how a project is being implemented. They’re a great opportunity to stay connected with all of the various projects being conducted by the Kenya staff around East Africa and I already know these meetings will be a highlight of my internship.
After the meeting I quickly settle into my desk at get to work. My first task is to familiarize myself with the qualitative interviews completed with adolescents, parents, gatekeepers, community leaders, mentors, and teachers and draft a coding dictionary that will be used to guide the coding of transcripts in Atlas.ti. Not such an easy or straightforward task with such an elaborate project, but a challenge that I was eager to tackle.
Pictured: my desk in the “intern hub” at Population Council, Kenya