Volunteer Health Workers in Iran as Social Activists
03 April 2006
Published by the Women Living Under Muslim Laws in December 1998, this paper tackles not only health issues in pre-war Iran but also provides analysis on the role of women, volunteers and civil society groups in achieving democracy.
Excerpts from the paper:
"In 1991, an initiative was launched with a pilot project of 200 women from low-income neighbourhoods in a district, near Teheran, and by mid-1996 the programme included over 20,000 volunteers throughout Teheran and all major cities in all provinces. Although no recent statistics have been issued, the claim of officials puts the number anywhere between 25,000 to 37,000. The organization’s success has attracted funding from major international organizations, such as UNICEF and the World Bank, despite initially apprehensive assessments of the project.
Community Health Centres, which are set up in urban districts by the Ministry of Health, appoint volunteer women in each neighbourhood who act as intermediaries between local women and the Health Centre. These volunteer health workers receive basic health care training. Each volunteer covers approximately fifty to eighty households in her neighbourhood, serving as the centre's contact person and providing health information for her neighbours. Although their single most important concern after being appointed is the promotion of modern contraception and family planning, volunteers are involved in other health matters. They are expected to keep records of all families with young children, new births, and pregnancies, they invite pregnant women to visit the clinic for pre- and post-natal care and for vaccinations. Volunteers also monitor the health needs of their neighbourhoods and communicate them to the centre. This well-rounded approach to neighbourhood health issues has not only been very significant in bringing legitimacy to the role of the volunteer in the neighbourhoods, but it has also made the job more appealing to the volunteers themselves. Clearly many would not have joined the organization if their role were only limited to contraception and family planning information."