In November 2015 and March 2017, I travelled to Moshupa, Botswana to carry out a survey on social networks with the goal of preventing HIV. My PhD work is part of the INSTRUCT project (http://instruct.cietresearch.org/) that aims to prevent HIV by empowering young women to make choices to protect themselves and by working with the community to create an enabling environment. It can be challenging to figure out how best to reach the young women that can benefit from the INSTRUCT project and so my PhD aims to use existing social networks (real networks of people, not Facebook or Twitter) to reach marginalized young women more effectively.
Photo 1: Myself with our team of field workers in front of our minibus (November 2015).
As our research involves studying the social networks of marginalized young women, we hired and trained other young women from the district to carry out the interviews. They are trained as research assistants and in the training we cover all the questions in the survey as well as informed consent. Pictured is the team that carried out the field work in the pilot phase in November 2015. We spent much of our time in that minibus driving to our four selected communities for the interviews.
Photo 2: However, there were some challenges such as this bridge that had been washed away by recent rains (March 2017).
Photo 3: A view towards Moshupa town (pop. ~20000), the main town in the district we were working in (March 2017).
Photo 4: Three interviewers off to find young women to interview (March 2017).
The participants were identified through a mix of asking key informants (social workers, health education assistants, etc.), young women themselves who pointed us towards others like themselves, and going door-to-door.
Photo 5: Three of our interviewers (in the CIET bibs) talking with some participants at a clinic in a small village (March 2017).
The young women we are aiming to interview are aged 16-29, are not working and not in school because that group has a high incidence of HIV and can most benefit from access to structural support programs to help them go back to school or to start a small business for example.
Photo 6: A participant being interviewed (March 2017).
The purpose of our survey is to understand who young women go to for support so that we can then spread information about available support programs to other young women. For example, if it turns out that young women go to their teachers when looking for support, we could provide information to the teachers so that it spreads to the young women more effectively.
Photo 7: A participant being interviewed with our minibus and the clinic building in the background (March 2017).
Learning about their social networks will allow us to spread information about existing government support programs for young women, and, if they make use of these programs, they will be less reliant on transactional sex and will be able to make their own choices about safe sex and so prevent HIV.