Rose Jerome has worked as an HAS community health worker (CHW) since 1997. She has truly learned the meaning of the International Women’s Day theme: “Making it Happen.” “On my first day, I wondered if I would really be able to do this job,” Rose remembers. And her nervousness is understandable; CHWs at HAS are leaders who assume a great deal of responsibility for the well-being of their community. They focus on preventive care methods including immunizations for children and pregnant women, and act as health advocates and educators. In an area where the literacy rate is no better than 50 percent, this intervention is truly empowering. Although no small task, Rose soon found herself well up to the challenge; she remembers, “I realized that it’s all about relationships. After a few months, people started to trust me because I just relate to them person to person.”
Positive personal connections like these are exactly what HAS needs from its CHWs. When a woman attends a class about hygiene or prenatal care, it’s essential that the CHW can engage with her on a personal level to communicate the importance of the information she is providing. The knowledge that women gain from this type of class is empowering: according to USAID, women with an education are more likely to invest their earnings into their families, and are more likely to send their children to school as well. In the case of HAS, arming women with important health knowledge is crucial to keeping families out of the hospital and focused on their own activities. And with strong female role models like Rose responsible for providing this type of education and care, the 85% female beneficiaries of our CHW classes can aspire to similar leadership roles.
Rose says proudly, “The situation has really improved in my time here. Women are seeking prenatal care more often, they are going to their postnatal visits, and they are following our messages about how to care for their children.”
Rose has come a long way from her first day jitters, and she now says, “Working in the field is a beautiful job. The people that we serve may live in the most remote areas, but with our work they can take care of themselves and get the care that they need.”
This International Women’s Day and every day, HAS salutes our CHW and all the women like Rose who are “making it happen” for their communities, their families, and their own health.