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Seeing is believing: how our work impacts generations of girls and their futures

Text Author: Meruyert Mukhitkyzy
Photographer: Evfrosiniia Kapustina, Santi Garcia Diaz

Health & Help’s female volunteers can serve as role models for girls living near our clinics.

Today, girls in Central America continue to be a particularly vulnerable group, exposed to extremely high risks of violence and facing limited access to healthcare and education.

Education makes women financially capable and independent, but they face multiple barriers when trying to acquire it. Including the lack of successful female role models in their lives.

Role models can increase girls’ aspirations because they help break down gender stereotypes and biases. They learn that their gender doesn’t limit their potential, and watching empowered women doing their dream jobs can elevate their ambitions and confidence.

Still, girls from low-income backgrounds are less likely to have economically successful role models and mentors in their own families and neighborhoods. While the role models can also be fictional characters or media influencers, access to media is poor in our villages.

In this scenario, having a female physician can alter a child’s life trajectory.

Girls cared for by female GPs demonstrate a notably higher preference for academic high school programs and STEMM majors. Repeated interactions contribute to enhanced effects (Riise et al., 2022).

Health & Help is a women-led organization. Our clinic directors have historically been women, and the medical staff is mostly female. Furthermore, the relationships between our volunteers and the village girls often extend beyond typical doctor-patient interactions. Local girls come to chat, they show our volunteers interesting places around the village and share food with them.

We take pride in our female volunteers who are carefully selected based on their qualifications and motivation. Our hope is that their example can inspire young children in our villages to pursue education and potentially contribute to addressing the current shortage in the healthcare workforce in Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Last month, Kayla, a young Guatemalan woman raised in our clinic’s village, briefly joined the team. She completed patient care specialist courses and acted as a nurse aide in the clinic. During her time with us, Kayla shared that she would like to pursue nursing education in the future.

Kayla was still a teenager when the clinic opened, so she closely witnessed Health & Help’s initial stages. While we can’t confirm if her career choices were directly influenced by our female medical volunteers, if there’s a chance they played a role, we want to continue fostering such inspiration.

Health & Help’s activities are only possible thanks to our generous donors. We hope that empowering Central American girls is another compelling reason for you to support us.

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📖 Riise, J., Willage, B., & Willén, A. (2022). Can Female Doctors Cure the Gender STEMM Gap? Evidence from Exogenously Assigned General Practitioners. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 104(4), 621–635. https://doi.org/10.1162/rest_a_00975

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