This week, mothers2mothers (m2m) had the opportunity to advocate for the role of community health workers (CHWs) in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York City. This is an important time for the global health community to reconvene on some of the most pressing issues of our time—one which m2m spokespeople leveraged to highlight the power of people-centred models in ending HIV/AIDS and creating health for all by 2030.
The team present in New York flew the m2m flag at the following key events:
“How to support CHWs at UNGA and Beyond”—a breakfast briefing organised by the Community Health Impact Coalition (CHIC)
m2m Spokeswoman Bupe Sinkala from Zambia joined a CHIC breakfast briefing for policymakers, funders, implementers, and advocates where latest research and resources about the impact of CHWs were shared.
Framing the urgency of the conversation, Roopa Dhatt, Executive Director at Women in Global Health, reminded us of the stark realities that female CHWs in particular face on a daily basis: Only 14% of CHWs are paid—a figure that carries even more weight for m2m, as 70% of the health workforce are women.
Taking to the stand, Bupe explained why CHWs like her and her fellow m2m Mentor Mothers need better and more support urgently: “Fair pay, training, recognition—these are the things that motivate us. It helps build the confidence of our community in us as professionals. It means our work is valued. It means we can help to reach the Global Goal of Health for All.”
Responding to the fact that so many working in her field are still not getting recognised, nor paid for the critical and life-saving work they do, Bupe went on to make three key asks on behalf of CHWs everywhere:
- “Help us ensure Governments recognise our status formally, and that that comes with fair pay and support.
- Make sure that commitment is not just words—invest in community-led solutions that deliver services in an integrated way, and partner with us to shape them.
- Ensure female community health workers are included in the decision-making process. Trust us to know what our communities need and how best to deliver them.”
We couldn’t agree more!
“Global Action & Alignment to Support Health Workers”—roundtables organised by the Frontline Health Workers Coalition
Bupe joined Emma France, m2m’s Global Development & Strategic Engagement Director, for a half-day event hosted by members of the Frontline Health Workers Coalition, including m2m, to spark a global movement to better protect and support health workers everywhere.
Joining speakers from Sangtah Bhopal Hub India and nurses from Malawi, New York, and the Philippines, Bupe discussed how global leaders and ministers of health can best #ActForHealthWorkers.
Reflecting on what has and hasn’t changed since the outbreak of COVID-19, Bupe highlighted:
1. the increased use of digital health and technology,
2. the renewed focus on and urgency to leave no one behind and achieve the Global Goals by 2030,
3. and the need to pay CHWs and recognise their status formally.
Echoing her remarks at the CHIC event, Bupe emphasised that “until all CHWs are paid and formally recognised, we’re only paying lip service to our profession. We need, and deserve, fair remuneration. Without my salary I could not provide for my daughter. With that salary I am now building my own home and furthering my studies.”
How do we take this momentum and turn it into action? In a panel that explored how partnerships drive impact to support health workers, Emma France explained that it is key that “we think, and act, collectively, so that funding is prioritised and accessible to health workers”, because “paying frontline CHWs is not groundbreaking, it’s absolutely basic.”
Ending on a powerful call to action, Emma stressed: “If we want to be the generation that delivers health for all, it will come down to one word: we need to scale, scale, scale. We are not going to achieve the outcomes we need for women, girls, families, if we don’t scale. But this will require us to be brave and audacious in the partnerships we create.”
“Stories from the heart of health”—event organised by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Global Health
This Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation event put the onus on stories from the frontline to uplift the voices of health workers and bring awareness to the challenges they face. Representing m2m was Regional Director for Lusophone Countries, Ilda Kuleba, who shared an impassioned account of what drives her work for women and African communities in Mozambique and Angola.
“It’s truly an honor to represent the community health workers m2m employs across sub-Saharan Africa. Because I get to work with women like Mentor Mother Adelina in Nampula, in Northern Mozambique. A woman living with HIV. A community health worker. A mentor to her clients and peers. Instead of giving up in the face adversity, Adelina chose hope. She chose to use her lived experience to help other women.
When I was 16, I made a promise to be led by communities, and to be led by hope. Today, I want to make a promise to work even harder for a fairer and healthier world.”
What an inspiring way to round off m2m’s time at #UNGA77! Thanks to all partners for the work they are doing to help us advocate for CHWs. If you want to stay informed about what m2m will be doing over the coming months to continue this vital work, sign up to our newsletter today.