A 2012 report from the World Bank noted that, “Female participation within the labor market has increased, particularly in the last ten years. This development has brought about significant social changes in the region and improved economic conditions”. Sacred Valley Health (SVH) has made empowerment, especially for our female promotoras, one of its three main goals.
As community health workers, promotoras undergo a social transformation. Before they participate in the program, promotoras already have major roles in their communities and are expected to fulfill longstanding cultural and familial expectations. They are mothers and wives, farmers and weavers. They are leaders in the domestic sphere, especially when their husbands may have to travel far away for work. They are expected to responsibly support and bolster their households any way they can, especially as their communities are remote and lack many services, including immediate access to healthcare.
When a promotora is chosen by her neighbors to serve as a health worker, such as SVH promotora Beatriz from Kelcankka, her social position changes. When Beatriz was elected to be a promotora in 2013, her familial and job roles were amplified. She was to uphold her household responsibilities and also bring health education services to those in her community. There were positive outcomes to these added responsibilities.
Sacred Valley Health provides two forms of support to a promotora like Beatriz. First, SVH serves as a reliable informational and work resource for promotoras. Promotoras learn an abundance of new health information, which can be challenging; however, they are not alone in this endeavor. If she ever needs help, Beatriz can always refer to a professionally trained medical staff. By providing this form of support, SVH empowers Beatriz by helping her develop strong teaching skills. As a result from this support, Beatriz’s confidence has grown. She can now apply her skills to successfully improve her communities’ health outcomes.
The second way that SVH supports promotoras is by providing incentives in exchange for their work. Incentives are food items that are not readily available in a promotora’s community and serve as payment. Incentives assure that each promotora’s earnings will directly benefit her and her children and also cushion the household’s food security. This system gives way to further economic development, which in turn “… reduces poverty. It increases the ability—distinct from will—of households to withstand crises”.
By having additional forms of income, promotoras can support their own families. Then, they can readily invest in their own communities by providing the necessary health education on maladies that their communities may encounter, such as giving clinical advice to a neighbor with a severe burn or teaching a new mother about the importance of childhood nutrition. There is further room for empowerment. Beatriz is now participating in SVH’s Train the Trainer Program, which has made her a role model to many other women and new promotoras in nearby communities. By participating in the Promotora Program, promotoras are not the only ones who are empowered – their communities are as well.
-Written by Rosanna Giorlandino
 “Women Play Key Roles in Economic Gains in Latin America and the Caribbean,” The World Bank, August 2012 http://bit.ly/1KsgT0l
 Esther Duflo, “Women Empowerment and Economic Development” Journal of Economic Literature, 2012, p. 1056