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Q+A: How women enumerators are driving impact in data collection

Kassandra Barnes 28 March 2024

DataDelta Enumerators: (L-R) Cheene, Leah, and Grandel ©Kassandra Barnes/IDinsight

A few weeks ago, I joined the DataDelta team in the Philippines as they wrapped up their final week of training in Cagayan de Oro City. The enumerators, coming from all over Mindanao, were participating in supervised data collection and preparing to go their separate ways – to their assigned regions to collect data. 

Enumerators play an important role in how DataDelta delivers large-scale, high-quality survey data and insights to social sector leaders, and in the Philippines, our team is largely powered by women, who comprise almost 80 percent of field teams. During some downtime, I sat down with three enumerators: Grandel, Cheene, and Leah, to hear about their experiences as female enumerators and how they are contributing to impact through data collection.

Q: How did you become an enumerator, and what do you enjoy about the role?

Grandel: I’ve been an enumerator since 2016. Before that, I worked desk jobs but wasn’t happy there. I was looking for an adventure. When I started working as an enumerator, it was really tough. I used to cry because of how hard the work was. Thankfully, my teammates and family supported me, and I started to feel more confident in the role. Now, I can’t imagine going back to a desk job.

“Being an enumerator is not easy, but I really enjoy doing fieldwork, exploring new places, and connecting with respondents and communities.”

Cheene: I also used to work in a desk job. I worked in a fast-paced corporate office that really took a toll on my mental health. I was looking for a change in my career and wanted to do something that contributed to doing good for others. My friend invited me to join a Facebook group where they shared opportunities in the development sector, and I decided to try NGO work. Since then, I’ve grown and achieved personal success through this work. 

Leah: I started working as an enumerator a few years ago because I was always interested in research, and I thought being an enumerator would be a good chance for me to learn. I used to be shy, so being an enumerator pushed me to extend myself and connect with people outside my comfort zone. I really love that about my job.

Q: I’ve gotten the chance to observe how you interview the respondents. How do you approach interacting with them?

Grandel: Maningkamot gyud ka (you really have to put in the effort). It is important to connect with the respondents as people. You have to build a rapport with the respondent to make sure that they are comfortable with you asking questions. I take time before the survey to make sure they understand the purpose of the study, and how their data will be used. This way, respondents are more relaxed and are able to answer the questions more truthfully.

Cheene: I think having a female perspective has allowed me to dig deeper while doing data collection. We are not satisfied with surface-level answers, we probe deeper to find the truth and properly record the answers of the respondents.

Leah: When talking to the respondents, I always emphasize the importance of research as a key part of the decision-making process. I tell them that we’re collecting data so that our leaders will know what the problems are, so it’s really important to be honest. As enumerators, we need to be truthful to be able to properly represent the real voices of the people. I’ve had previous work experiences where there would be issues of enumerators falsifying data, and I think that’s the worst thing an enumerator can do.

“We can’t solve the problems if the data is wrong.”

Q: How do you manage the risks and challenges you face as an enumerator?

Cheene: There are definitely a lot of risks and challenges associated with being an enumerator. While traveling alone during data collection, there were times when I would be worried or unsure about traveling to more rural, far-flung areas. Because of this, some people think that only men can handle the heavy responsibilities of being an enumerator, but women can do it too. I surprised even myself while I was working on the last round of data collection. I remember telling myself, kaya ko naman pala (Turns out I can do it).

Grandel: It can be risky traveling to high-risk areas, like those affected by conflict. You have to be aware and mindful of your own safety. But being a woman also has advantages in terms of how we approach more complex situations. There are areas where there are religious or ethnic sensitivities on interactions between men and women. Having a female enumerator allows us to interview women in these areas, compared to if there were only male enumerators who would only be able to interview male respondents. 

Leah: It is challenging to be an enumerator, but I like a challenge. I used to be really fearful of things outside of my comfort zone, but I’ve learned to power through my fears. Eventually, I overcame those fears, and they turned into my strengths. I’ve found new challenges since joining the DataDelta team. Our data collection is different and more complex than surveys I’ve worked on in the past. We also make an effort to go the extra mile and reach farther communities. I’m excited about these new challenges too.

Q: What motivates you as an enumerator? 

Grandel: I think it’s really important to hear the voices of regular people and their perspectives on the policies and programs that affect them. As an enumerator, I often come across people who have limited or no knowledge of programs like health services that are available to them. It’s important to engage with the community and make sure their voices are included in the policies.  

Cheene: I appreciate working in DataDelta because I can see the process from gathering the data to delivering the insights and results. We work hard so that the data we collect is reliable and can be used to help make the country better. The hard work really pays off when you can see where the data is being used.

“Nakikita namin saan napupunta yung data. Bilang isang enumerator, nakakaproud maging part nung research.”


“We can see where the data goes. As an enumerator, it makes us really proud to be part of the research.”

Leah:  I see research as the seeds for decision-making. We conduct data collection so that we can plant the seeds that would eventually turn into policies and programs that will help people. As an enumerator, the data we collect and pass on has to be real. It’s not easy, but I think the effort is worth it when we are able to learn about people’s perspectives and the problems they face in their communities. It’s really fulfilling to be able to be a part of bringing their problems to the decision-makers.

As someone who doesn’t often get opportunities to interact with our data collection teams, seeing the enumerators in action was a meaningful experience. Hearing their insights on their work and their dedication to upholding the integrity of each respondent, and thus, the data, solidified what this means in our work. We promise high-quality survey data and insights that we would not be able to deliver without the hard work of our field teams. 

We believe in putting people at the center of our data, and that begins with each person collecting insights from communities. Grandel, Cheene, and Leah are just a few of the enumerators working in DataDelta in the Philippines. We have over 90 field staff working day in and day out to ensure our data is truthful and representative of the voices of the people. The quality of our insights relies heavily on the quality of the data the enumerators collect. It is not an easy job, and without them, our work would not be possible.