Sitalire Kapira MMSc-GHD Class of 2021 Project Location: Neno, Malawi
Before joining the GHD program, Kapira worked with Partners In Health in Malawi as a Maternal Health Coordinator. Working in a rural area in Malawi as a clinician responsible for maternal health in a broken health system society, helped reduce the suffering patients and clients face through the training and mentoring of staff on maternal and child health initiatives, supported health programs that improved Maternal and Child Health infrastructure, supply chain, systems, and clinical tools. His passion for these maternal and child health initiatives are what encouraged him to apply to the MMSc-GHD program. His thesis project will focus on assessing the barriers of contraceptive uptake among adolescent girls in a rural district in Malawi. We reached out to Kapira to find out more about his research experiences in a landscape that is vastly different than originally anticipated.
What has surprised you the most about your project?
As I started quantitative data collection, the figures were relatively low for the contraceptive uptake among adolescents compared to the number of pregnancies reported. Qualitatively, I had assumed that culture plays a significant role in adolescent pregnancies. However, surprisingly, no stakeholder has mentioned culture as the reason for either adolescent pregnancies or the low uptake of the contraceptive services by adolescents.
How has COVID-19 impacted your study?
So many things have changed with the coming of COVID-19. Primarily, people are not turning up for the services at the hospital, resulting in even lower uptake of contraceptive services by adolescents. There is a great fear of COVID-19 among the general population. Additionally, health personnel's attention shifted from concentrating on contraceptive services to COVID-19, including budget allocation. All available resources are diverted towards COVID-19 prevention and treatment.
What challenges have you faced while in the field?
I've been most surprised by the suffering of adolescents impacted by unplanned pregnancies who are left to raise a child as a single parent with no financial assistance from others. Before joining the GHD program, I assumed that there was someone to take care of such adolescents. Instead, these individuals have to stand on their own and do what they can to support themselves and their children.
What hopes do you have for your research?
The hope for this research work is to inform the policymakers on some of the challenges that adolescents face in accessing contraceptive services, reducing adolescent pregnancies. The research would help the whole government develop new policies that put adolescents at the forefront in issues that concern their health. The study will also inform and empower adolescents to take a leading role in decisions that pertain to their health, contraceptive health services in particular.
How has your time with the MMSc-GHD prepared you for your research?
Provision of lessons in statistics and epidemiology helped me in my quantitative skills. Qualitative, ethnography, and mixed methods courses offered by the department played a significant role in understanding the qualitative part. Besides these, the support from mentors and faculty members helped me a lot in this research work.
What advice would you give prospective students?
Focus on the task at hand and submit all assignments within the given time frame. The early identification of mentors will allow you to work with them closely and ultimately benefit your research.