Women health workers act as change makers’

May 26, 2010

Findings from a study yesterday revealed that women health workers have been found to be acting as change makers of society at the community level since the sixties of last century.
The study conducted over community health programmes of the government, ICDDR,B, BRAC and Gonoshasthya Kendra in Matlab, Savar and Jamalpur said that the recruitment of women in health and family planning operations have contributed to female empowerment in the country.
“Women community health workers were pioneers in bringing rural women into outside formal paid works and breaking conservative norms and females’ seclusion,” Simeen Mahmud, lead researcher of the quantitative study, said at a function held at International Centre for Diarrhoea Disease and Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) here.
ICDDR,B executive director Allejandro Cravioto, director of Family Planning Dr Jafar Ahmed Hakim, senior scientist of ICDDR,B Dr Mohammad Yunus, Dr Jalal Uddin of BRAC, Dr Manzur Kadir Ahmed of Gonoshasthya Kendra and co-investigator of the study Maheen Sultan spoke on the occasion.
Simeen said women health workers said that their job has enhanced their status in society, helped find better life partners, enhanced family economic conditions, instilled self esteem and confidence and gave more power in family decision making.
The study also found that the employment of girls as community health workers has influenced many fathers in last 50 years to educate their daughters and changed social outlook about women.
“From a situation of outright hostility in the early 1960s, women health workers are now welcome everywhere and their employment has gained social acceptability and even status,” Savar Upazila Family Planning officer was quoted as saying in the study.
A husband of a health worker has identical view as he said, “If she did not do this job she would not know what’s going on in society. Now she knows what is happening around her and understands what is good and bad.”
But not all the men who were interviewed have the same perception about their wives’ job as some people posses mixed feelings about it.
During in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, the female health workers claimed that their work has contributed to decline in birthrate, maternal mortality and child mortality rate in the country since 1960s.
They also believe, according to the study, that the job has given them greater mobility and visibility in conservative society.
“After I got married I could not go anywhere. After I got the job I can now go anywhere,” said a health worker of ICDDR,B operation in Matlab, while six out of her 10 colleagues believed that now patents are inspired to educate their daughters because they see women get employed.
A health worker of ICDDR,B in Matlab said when she visit from house to house in the field many fathers tell their daughters “Look, your health worker sisters have studied and now have job.”
Courtesy of BSS via The Independent

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