On International Women's Day, we're taking a moment to celebrate our dedicated and compassionate Community Health Promoters, and the mothers and children they serve. Amid tightening global health budgets and damaging policies that may restrict women’s access to critical services such as family planning, it’s more important than ever to empower and protect the health of women and children. Not only on March 8th, but every single day of the year.
Thanks to their tireless efforts to improve the health of their communities, Living Goods and BRAC Community Health Promoters are reducing child deaths by 27 percent, while expanding their access to economic and social opportunities.
90 percent of our Community Health Promoters tell us that their work boosts their confidence, financial independence, and status in their communities. When women are economically and socially empowered, it can open doors to opportunities they never imagined before. In fact, in Uganda last year, more than 50 Community Health Promoters ran for local office—many of whom had never dreamed of running for political positions.
There are now 6,000 Living Goods and BRAC Community Health Promoters reaching five million people with quality health care. Community Health Promoters like Rita, a farmer and mother of three from Uganda. Rita joined Living Goods three years ago and has since become a trusted leader and health adviser in her community. Additionally, thanks to her savings, she now owns two cows and manages a small piggery.
We followed Rita through the Kabanyolo village as she introduced herself to Winnie, a young woman pregnant with her second child, who just moved to the area. Rita talks to Winnie about the importance of proper nutrition and prenatal care, and offers to register Winnie in the Living Goods mobile system so her pregnancy can be tracked and supported.
"I never had anyone…offer to follow my pregnancy and giving me advice,” Winnie explains. “I learnt a lot from [Rita] today. For instance, I didn’t know why it was important to take these pills of folic acid and iron before. I used to take them because the hospital told me to…but not regularly. I also learnt about the importance of feeding well my children. Now, I’ll talk to my husband so we can buy some porridge from her.
Women who use maternal health services themselves are more likely to use other reproductive health services, and to seek health care for their children. By empowering mothers with the knowledge and support they need, Community Health Promoters like Rita can help ensure that children not only survive, but also thrive.
Rita bids farewell to Winnie and moves on to visit Susan, a mother of three young children.
“Rita helps us treat our children when they are sick, gives them good porridge…and helps us have light at night because we often get power cuts,” Susan says. “[It] is such an advantage to have her coming to see us because she in near and comes very quickly,” the mother of two explains. “The nearest clinic is far and difficult to reach at night…I remember one night my elder child had high fever. My husband took her to Rita who did the quick test for malaria and she was positive. Rita treated her directly and my child was saved.”
Finally, Rita stops by her neighbors Sara’s house. She assesses Sara's baby boy for diarrhea and administers a treatment of oral rehydration salts.
Rita beams as she tells us that her she’s proud to be a leader in her community.
“This work is very rewarding,” she says. “My community trusts me very much."