A gender analysis of a national community health workers program: A case study of Afghanistan
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Gender equity can be a neglected issue in health system reforms. This paper explores the multiple layered gender dynamics of the Afghan Community Health Worker (CHW) Program within broader health system reforms in Afghanistan using a qualitative research design. We interviewed policy makers, health managers, CHWs and community members in 16 sites in 2013 and 2014. We found that gendered societal norms interact and influence the Afghan CHW program in a dynamic way. Gendered social norms around the division of labour tend to privilege women in terms of access to resources at the community level, but it is men who hold leadership positions that ultimately decide how the resources are to be distributed. The Afghan Ministry of Public Health expresses a commitment to gender equity, but policies on gender are restricted to reproductive health, thus constraining a gender-equity approach as focused on maternal and child health. Our explicit gender analysis not only reveals gender inequities in the Afghan CHW Program and the broader health system, it also uncovers how a highly gendered division of health labour provides some opportunities for women's empowerment that can disrupt patriarchal role constraints and broader gender inequities.
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