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Being a health worker in Nepal is no easy task. In addition to the challenging terrain, Maoist threats, and tough living conditions, women must find time to serve as volunteers in their communities. Many heroic women, however, do just that.

Sandwiched between China and India, the tiny Himalayan country of Nepal is listed as one of the poorest countries in the world. At the community’s request, Health Worker training was initiated in Kathmandu in 2000 with women coming from villages high in the Himalayas to attend the sessions. Most of the women were Hindu; a few were Christian. All, however, were resolved to bring better health care to their communities.

At the end of the first training, one of the attendees who had been especially attentive came up to express her appreciation. She had only 2 years of formal schooling, not an unusual occurrence since half of Nepali women are illiterate.1 It was apparent from her calloused hands that she was no stranger to guiding plows behind water buffalo in the rice fields. Her simple but profound statement was this: “I can’t believe that someone with my low-level of education has been entrusted with such valuable information.” She expressed well the seriousness with which most women take their volunteer roles as health workers.

The community health worker (CHW) program is now registered with the government as Hope for the Himalaya. The CHWs provide first-line primary health care in remote villages, many of which are located several hours from the nearest road, by weighing and monitoring babies and pregnant women and arranging transportation to the hospital for those who need more intensive care. The health workers make the trek to Kathmandu every two months to deliver reports regarding their health activities.

1 United Nations Human Development Report 2009.

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Chipulukusu School
Zambia, Congo