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Celebrating the impact of female Community Health Workers

Women account for a larger percentage of Community Health Workers than men, and the role has given many women the opportunity to earn an income, gain knowledge and respect and become leaders in their communities. Today on International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate all the important work carried out by female Community Health Workers.

People’s health is dependent on health workers’ availability, accessibility and quality of work and health systems can only function when health workers are well-trained, equipped, supervised and compensated. We work with governments to professionalize their health workforces and provide health workers with digital tools that guide service delivery and enable quality and standardized care.

Evidence shows that female Community Health Workers can be more effective in some contexts, especially for delivering care related to women’s health, family planning and child care, and so it is important that we protect female health workers and enable their continuation in the delivery of health services. At D-tree, we have seen countless incredible examples of women health workers who are gaining tremendously from the work – they are learning new skills, receiving an income and connecting with people. At the same time, they are often breaking societal norms and barriers, sending a powerful message to whole communities about what women are capable to do.

Dostea Lonjino, is a Community Health Worker under our flagship programme Afya-Tek, and we asked her to write a letter for our annual review coming out later in March (sign up for our newsletter to make sure to receive it!). The letter is inspiring and it is clear how Dostea has not only contributed to her community, but also that the knowledge she is gaining from Afya-Tek workshops and trainings are benefitting her on a private and personal level. Through attending the trainings, she now better understands family planning and how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. On top of that, she has also become increasingly digitally savvy as she has learnt how to use the application that helps her to effectively carry out the work.

It is clear that Community Health Worker programmes can be empowering and provide employment as well as opportunities for skills development and economic security to men and women on an equal basis if done correctly. With an overwhelming 70 % of Community Health Workers being women and only 14 % being paid, it is a gender equity and human rights issue. Renumerated and formalized cadres of health workers are crucial for sustainability, but we also need to take into consideration how this formalization can affect the current workforce. When positions become paid and formalized, there is a risk they will increasingly be taken up by men, especially in contexts where men are the breadwinners within households, and this needs to be taken into account at programmatic levels. In 2023 and beyond, D-tree will continue to work with Community Health Workers in our key geographical areas, applying a gendered lens to the work.

Learn more about our work with health workers here.

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