Close-to-community providers addressing gender norms and power dynamics: participatory action research in fragile and shock-prone settings


Partners: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK, American University of Beirut, Lebanon and HERD International, Nepal


The health workforce is a key component of the health system that underpins Universal Health Coverage efforts. Most countries in the global south, and particularly fragile and shock-prone contexts, have a shortage of formal health workers and increasingly look to a range of close-to-community (CTC) providers to fill this gap. CTC providers are health workers, eg Community Health Workers and traditional birth attendants, who carry out promotional, preventive and/or curative health services and who are the first point of contact at the community level, based in the community or in a basic primary facility.


This study will build on previous ReBUILD for Resilience research and bring together CTC providers to address two interrelated issues that clearly emerged during that formative research: 1) challenging gender norms and navigating power dynamics within their communities and 2) gender and power issues experienced by CTC providers themselves such as supervision, support, and juggling multiple responsibilities. Participatory action research will be used support CTC providers to address gender norms and power relations within their communities and in the health systems, focusing on Lebanon and Nepal. Working closely with CTC providers we will co-develop low-cost interventions that can support them in addressing these harmful gender norms.


Research objectives

The specific research objectives are:

1. To identify and prioritise the gender norms and power dynamics within communities and health systems that affect the work of CTC providers and undermine their agency
2. To identify areas for action on issues related to gender norms and power dynamics that would benefit CTC providers
3. To co-create new and or adapt existing strategies with CTC providers to mitigate issues related to gender norms and implement these within the communities and the health system
4. To document and evaluate the implementation of these strategies and understand how effective they are
5. To synthesise learning across countries about how CTC providers can address the harmful gender norms and power dynamics that affect their work and undermine their agency

Outputs from this study




Image: Female Community Health Volunteers in Satungal village in western Kathmandu. Public Services International via Flickr [opens new tab]



"ReBUILD for Resilience brings together partners to share experiences, to discuss our contexts, and to create an appropriate model that helps build resilience in health systems across the country and beyond"

Sushil Baral, HERD International