Equally able, but unequally accepted: Gender differentials and experiences of community health volunteers promoting maternal, newborn, and child health in Morogoro Region, Tanzania

Isabelle Feldhaus, Marissa Silverman, Amnesty E. Lefevre, Rose Mpembeni, Idda Mosha, Dereck Chitama, Diwakar Mohan, Joy J. Chebet, David Urassa, Charles Kilewo, Marya Plotkin, Giulia Besana, Helen Semu, Abdullah H. Baqui, Peter J. Winch, Japhet Killewo, Asha S. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Despite emerging qualitative evidence of gendered community health worker (CHW) experience, few quantitative studies examine CHW gender differentials. The launch of a maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) CHW cadre in Morogoro Region, Tanzania enlisting both males and females as CHWs, provides an opportunity to examine potential gender differences in CHW knowledge, health promotion activities and client acceptability. Methods: All CHWs who received training from the Integrated MNCH Program between December 2012 and July 2013 in five districts were surveyed and information on health promotion activities undertaken drawn from their registers. CHW socio-demographic characteristics, knowledge, and health promotion activities were analyzed through bi- and multivariate analyses. Composite scores generated across ten knowledge domains were used in ordered logistic regression models to estimate relationships between knowledge scores and predictor variables. Thematic analysis was also undertaken on 60 purposively sampled semi-structured interviews with CHWs, their supervisors, community leaders, and health committee members in 12 villages from three districts. Results: Of all CHWs trained, 97 % were interviewed (n = 228): 55 % male and 45 % female. No significant differences were observed in knowledge by gender after controlling for age, education, date of training, marital status, and assets. Differences in number of home visits and community health education meetings were also not significant by gender. With regards to acceptability, women were more likely to disclose pregnancies earlier to female CHWs, than male CHWs. Men were more comfortable discussing sexual and reproductive concerns with male, than female CHWs. In some cases, CHW home visits were viewed as potentially being for ulterior or adulterous motives, so trust by families had to be built. Respondents reported that working as female-male pairs helped to address some of these dynamics. Conclusions: Male and female CHWs in this study have largely similar knowledge and health promotion outputs, but challenges in acceptance of CHW counseling for reproductive health and home visits by unaccompanied CHWs varied by gender. Programs that pair male and female CHWs may potentially overcome gender issues in CHW acceptance, especially if they change gender norms rather than solely accommodate gender preferences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number201
JournalInternational journal for equity in health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 25 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Equally able, but unequally accepted: Gender differentials and experiences of community health volunteers promoting maternal, newborn, and child health in Morogoro Region, Tanzania'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this