This panel explores the roles of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in the context of social development. As the link between communities and programmes, theoretical and ethnographic papers will showcase how they translate and adapt in differing socio-political, religious and gendered spaces.
Health care workers act at the interface of the biological, social and material. In Lower-middle income countries health care interventions in the context of social development are increasingly fragmented and run as short-term projects. Reasons include the outsourcing of implementation to the private sector in the name of efficiency; that private sector companies need to demonstrate "corporate social responsibility"; and the need to generate metrics for proving impact. Within this context there is growing reliance on lower level, often unpaid and frequently female Community Health Workers (CHWs) to actually implement. Deemed as the link between communities and programmes, they translate programmes into culturally accepted forms, and report back in acceptable ways to institutional funders. The context within which these workers are expected to work vary across and within countries, with differing religious, socio-political and gendered relations. In this panel we seek theoretical, ethnographic and empirical papers that address this phenomena. Questions that may be addressed could include: How are understandings of 'care' appropriated and manipulated by development programmes? How is religion mobilised, understood and appropriated in these contexts? How do CHWs manage their multiple and often competing roles? What impact - social, political, and health related - does this have on the community workers themselves? What is the potential for empowerment and exploitation? How do these workers relate, translate and appropriate the programmes to the diverse contexts within which they live? And what disciplinary entanglements do anthropologists have to navigate to both research these issues, and, if necessary, intervene?