Women are less likely to access needed maternal health services when female providers are unavailable. Yet many health facilities struggle to recruit and retain women. In Baghlan Province, a review conducted in 2015 showed that only 76 percent of health facilities had at least one female health care provider. Many of these positions were filled by midwives trained through the Community Midwife Education (CME) program, an important initiative for recruiting and training new female health providers.
Due to security concerns and lack of awareness about the importance of women’s access to female providers, families have typically been unwilling to encourage or support women to enter midwifery education programs. Recognizing these issues, health shuras have now begun to sensitize families and communities on the positive health outcomes that result from encouraging women to participate in CME programs. These efforts, combined with support from HEMAYAT to engage in more targeted recruitment of women, have made a difference.
After participating in a project-wide gender orientation for HEMAYAT staff, HEMAYAT’s Provincial Coordinator for Baghlan sought to apply several key lessons from the orientation to support provincial efforts to recruit more women and reduce some of the barriers to their employment. The PC worked with the provincial RMNCH committee to identify and announce where there were shortages of female staff. Following these efforts, the RMNCH committee recently announced that now 100% of health facilities in the province have at least one female staff member, with particular success in the recruitment of midwives. Efforts are continuing to proactively recruit women for other vacancies, including health facility boards and other health sector leadership.
Figure: Newly recruited midwife at Baghlan Sanatee Community Health Center