Addressing Women’s Health Issues Results in Community Transformation
“The plight of women in many societies, with its resulting health problems, emotional trauma, high infant and maternal mortality rates, calls out for action. The will to change must come from within communities. We must give women a voice, encourage them to use it and then listen when they do.” – Emma Wakpi, Community Health Education Area Coordinator for Papua New Guinea.
Women are often the most engaged change mobilizers in developing world communities, however in many cases, not much attention is given to women’s health. This can be related to women having fewer opportunities for health education, less power and autonomy, and at the receiving end of gender-based violence. In many countries, women have limited access to prenatal and infant care, and therefore are more likely to experience complications during pregnancy and childbirth. This is a critical concern in countries where girls marry and have children before they are ready, often well before the age of 18.
Worldwide, 35% of women between 15 to 49 years of age have experienced physical and or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. In the 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East where female genital mutilation is most common, one out of three girls aged 15 to 19 has experienced some form of this harmful practice. Along with experiencing emotional trauma, these young girls also have an elevated risk of prolonged bleeding, infection, exposure to HIV, future childbirth complications, infertility and death.1
In many places in the developing world, if a baby is born not breathing, it is assumed that the baby is dead. No intervention occurs, only grief. Raising awareness of simple supportive measures such as stimulating and drying babies, as well as removing mucus from the mouth, can result in a responsive crying baby that has the potential to thrive.
Quality women’s health care can provide an important entry point for information and services that empower mothers as informed decision makers concerning their own health along with the health of their children.
As a part of Community Health Evangelism (CHE), Medical Ambassadors International (MAI) uses a program called “Women’s Cycle of Life” to not only improve women’s health, but even more importantly, show them their value in the eyes of God. Topics discussed in this program include:
- Human Trafficking Prevention
- Stages of Womanhood: Puberty Through Menopause
- Conception and Fetal Growth
- Making Pregnancy and Delivery Safer
- Preparing for Unexpected Emergencies During Childbirth
- Newborn Care and Child Spacing
Women who attend the program typically show improved health, confidence and joy. Through this personal transformation, the woman becomes a better mother, wife and member of the community.
An example of community transformation comes from a Women’s Cycle of Life training in Ethiopia where, as the women grew in their understanding of the Word of God and in their faith, it resulted in positive changes in attitudes. As the men were included in CHE lessons about marriage, even pastors came to the realization that they were not treating their wives well. Repeatedly, in the couple’s trainings, husbands and pastors fell on their knees to ask for forgiveness for the poor treatment of their wives and prayed that they would see them as valuable and precious.
One of the women who attended the training said, “Growing up as a young girl I have noticed that women have double challenges: coping with being seen as second-class citizens and recognizing that their role in the community is huge. But in Ethiopia, not much attention is given to developing the capacity of women, and how they can lead a healthy life. Because of the nature of women, they need special care and treatment. Knowing this while I was growing up, sometimes made me dislike being a woman. Learning some important lessons from these training really lifted my spirit. With God, there is hope and transformation. I have gained good lessons that encourage me to live as God created me to be.”
For over 40 years, MAI has been equipping communities through Christ-centered health and development, using a process called Community Health Evangelism (CHE). CHE is a multifaceted approach to Christian ministry that addresses the needs of the whole person – physical, spiritual, emotional, and social. Over a period of several years, whole communities are lifted out of cycles of poverty and disease. CHE is a strategic way to facilitate holistic transformational development.
MAI has been able to harness the active engagement of well over 52,442 CHE volunteers around the globe. At the present time, MAI works in 2,674 communities around the world, impacting a population of over 2.98 million people in 75 countries.
Learn more about community transformation through women’s health in the Spring 2022 Edition of Healing Lives Magazine, Woman by God’s Design.
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