Community Health Worker, Advocate, and Now Heroine of Health
We’re thrilled that our friend and colleague, community health worker Margaret Odera of Kenya, was named a 2022 Heroine of Health by Women in Global Health (one of our members). Check out her acceptance speech from the 2022 World Health Summit below. – The FHWC editorial team
I'm so excited and feel much honored to be among the Heroines of Health 2022.
This is an indication that nobody is limited to succeed. Many times women have hidden themselves in cocoons because, to them, it was normal to work with very little or no pay at all. I find it unacceptable and unjust for women to continue this way.
We started as five people. We are now 905 community health workers.
That's why I saw the importance of creating a community health workers network (CHW-CN) that will unite all the community health workers together for the purpose of advocacy. We started as five people. We are now 905 community health workers spread across 4 counties.
Our main aim is to form a national association. Ninety percent of the group members are women who are undergoing advocacy training and 568 have obtained the advocacy certificates. The training is organized by Dr. Madeline Ballad of the Community Health Impact Coalition, who is assisting us in networking with other organizations so that our vision will come to a reality.
Many community health workers were very afraid to join. I took a bold step and approached the director of health services in Nairobi, who gave us support. We have obtained a certificate from the Ministry of Labor and got registered under the laws of Kenya.
It's high time women should stand up...to bring this injustice to an end.
With time, when the community health workers slowly realized that we are fighting for a good cause, they continued to join on a daily basis, doing the advocacy course so that they understand who they are and why we have to stand and advocate for our pay, professionalization, protection, and so on.
It's high time women should stand up as individuals and blocks in order to bring this injustice to an end.
I am very sure if 70% of community health workers were men, this cadre would have been receiving pay, and a good pay at that. But because it's 70% women, it seems okay to work as volunteers. This should stop. We are all human beings who should be treated with dignity and respect.
With Women in Global Health onboard, I believe this is a light that will shine through every workforce, because in leadership, we are not considered to have equal leadership opportunity.
This battle started with our mothers. We continue from where our mothers stopped, being resilient, relentless, and unwavering until our vision becomes a reality.
As a member of the Women in Global Health, I will not waiver, relent, or stop until I see myself and my daughters, nieces, sisters, and mothers getting what we deserve.
It starts with me as an individual, it starts with you as an individual, and united as a block, I believe that together if we do this, we shall win!
Margaret Odera is a community health worker, mentor mother for women living with HIV, and advocacy leader. The Frontline Health Workers Coalition first met Margaret Odera in 2019, when IntraHealth International, which leads our Secretariat, connected her with intensive storytelling and advocacy training. She’s since delivered her perspective and health workforce advocacy recommendations at more than 20 high-level events, including some of ours with leaders at USAID, other donors, and governments. In 2021 she founded the Community Health Workers Champions Network (CHW-CN)—the first network in Kenya to unify and mobilize community health workers in Kenya to advocate for fair pay and professionalization. In 2022 she became a ONE Champion in East Africa and a CHW Organizer for the Community Health Impact Coalition, one of our members. Watch IntraHealth's video portrait of Margaret, shortlisted for the World Health Organization’s 2022 Health for All Film Fest.