When people think about their greatest fears, one that frequently tops the charts is public speaking. It can be nerve-wracking to say the least. But now imagine that you are a woman in a culture that does not generally view women as leaders. Imagine that you have suddenly come into a position where you will be an agent of change and that you will be expected to learn complicated new information, as well as reteach this information to important members of the community. Imagine standing in front of this community and having to not only speak intelligently and eloquently, but to also have to assert that you deserve this respect. This is the position that our new promotora Fanny found herself in just last week at the Rumira Sondormayo general assembly. Fanny has been working hard to learn all the new information that we require of our promotoras. Near the end of the assembly, she was called to present and, while her two beautiful children played in the background, she gracefully shared a portion of her knowledge about natural medicine with the people gathered.
High in the Andes, there are no pharmacies where you can buy cough syrup or Vick’s vapor rub. What the Andes do have, and in abundance, are wild herbs, that in the right hands can be transformed into natural medicines. SVH helps to sustain and promote local plant knowledge through trainings led by experts. Promotoras learn which local plants can be used for what illness and how to convert each into pomade, tincture, tea or syrup. The promotoras can then pass on their knowledge by treating and educating people in their village.
And not only does the presentation at the monthly general assembly help those who hear it, it also helps the promotora. The women of the Andes are rarely empowered, given positions of respect or the ability to change and better their surroundings. The position of promotora comes with responsibility, and it educates and empowers women to change their communities for the better. Many of our promotoras are deeply devoted to health promotion and they inspire others to adopt healthy habits and to work hard. Fanny shone with confidence today and at the end of her presentation, a gentleman from the community stood up and made some comments in Quechua. I later learned that he was telling Fanny that the community was very interested in her presentation and that they were inviting her at another time to teach further on the topic, perhaps including a demonstration. Sacred Valley Health met its mission as one of our promotoras shared the knowledge that she learned through SVH trainings – knowledge that will sustainably improve health in her community – and demonstrated her own empowerment by presenting to such a large audience.
– Written by Mary Underwood, RN