A new kind of health education

In Peru, an innovative new program is empowering indigenous women to live healthier lifestyles and lower their stress levels.

Indigenous women in poor communities face numerous obstacles to good health. They often have little or no access to healthcare, and little information about disease prevention and nutrition.

In addition, stress-related diseases such as hypertension and heart disease are becoming increasingly common. Extreme lack of resources and economic opportunity added to the demands of raising a family and providing enough income to stay afloat causes high stress to women in poverty. Unfortunately, they typically do not seek medical treatment for a health concern unless it becomes so severe that it interferes with their ability to work. “This dynamic leaves no room for early diagnosis, and women develop complications that reinforce a vicious cycle of poverty,” explains Dr. Gabriela Salvador, Senior Director for Health at Grameen Foundation.

That’s why we collaborated with Manuela Ramos in Peru to create a program for improving overall health for indigenous women. “Liberate de la tension,” or “Get rid of the stress” promotes rural health fairs and education to empower women to care for themselves. 

“The women we work with are in the informal sector. For them, a day without work is a day without income,” says Dr. Salvador. “Through our work with Manuela Ramos, we help women adopt healthy behaviors to be able to deal with daily stress of their daily lives in a more balanced way, prevent health problems, and facilitate access to early diagnosis and treatment of  diseases.”

Rural health fairs enable women to access healthcare directly and to learn about good nutrition and stress-reducing strategies. It gives women the opportunity to become more physically active and build camaraderie with others by playing volleyball or joining dance classes. Health screenings, consultations and health food classes convey the importance of nutrition. Activities such as yoga and art are offered to improve participants’ self-esteem and reduce stress.

“Manuela Ramos is an ideal partner because it is a women’s development organization that by the nature of its business has regular contact with poor, marginalized women, and can widely facilitate access to knowledge and services,” says Dr. Salvador. 

The program, which was carefully designed to meet the needs of poor indigenous women in Peru, is quite successful: clients rate satisfaction above 90 percent. As a result, women can focus more of their energy on overcoming economic challenges while raising happy and healthy families.