Generating data for children using innovations

UNICEF assists the Government of Turkmenistan in conducting the Multi Indicator Cluster Survey to assess the situation of children and women in the country.

Julie Pudlowski
UNICEF Turkmenistan 2018
15 May 2018

In September 2015, Gurbangozel Chariyeva, Head of the Population Department in the State Statistics Committee of Turkmenistan, and Eziz Gurbansahetov, Chief of the Agriculture Department in the State Statistics Division of Ahal velayat began field work to collect data for the Turkmenistan MICS-5.

It was an enormous undertaking - like delivering a baby and educating a child.

Gurbangozel Chariyeva

Before heading into the field to conduct interviews, Gurbangozel and her survey team travelled to Panama, Thailand and Turkey to attend UNICEF regional workshops on conducting the MICS. They learned a great deal—about the survey and its components, how to develop survey plans and budgets, and how to prepare the report—and were able to exchange ideas and discover solutions with colleagues from around the world.

Once trained, the field staff were organized into six teams—one team for each velayat and Ashgabat —to conduct the survey in all corners of the country. Each team consisted of a supervisor, four or five interviewers and a measurer for determining children’s weight and height. The teams covered 20 households in two days, with each interviewer taking on five households. Nationwide, more than 6,000 households were surveyed by 37 people.

Women and girls in traditional Turkmen clothing
UNICEF/Julie Pudlowski
A MICS field interviewer interviews a family in Ahal region.

The process was totally innovative, Gurbangozel said. It was the first MICS in the region conducted using tablets rather than paper, to improve ease and accuracy. If an interviewer made a mistake, the system would prevent it from being registered. Going paperless was also an environmentally friendly choice and saved time and money—when an interviewer entered the data, it was immediately received by the survey team at the Central Office of Statistics.

For Eziz, an added benefit was that the questions themselves raised the awareness of parents on good practices. During the interviews, parents considered questions such as: Do you know how to prevent pregnancies? What did your child weigh at birth? Who were your doctors? What do you know about danger signs and when to ask for help from health workers?

There were also some sensitive questions—such as the use of contraception—that respondents were reluctant to discuss. Thanks to the trainings, which involved practice scenarios and role play, the interviewers new how to build trust, explain the rationale behind difficult questions and request the needed answers kindly and professionally.

It was an excellent experience to participate in the MICS-5 and learn how to organize the logistics and methods. The information that we collected is so important - it helped the Government see which areas we really needed to focus on. We are looking forward to the next one.

Gurbangozel Chariyeva