Today is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. MAP honors women worldwide performing large and small acts to help women and the communities they live in.
High in the Bolivian mountains, Berta stands with her daughter Lena, proud of her efforts to defeat Chagas, a disease that was running rampant in her community.
More than 6 million people worldwide are infected with Chagas, a life-threatening disease discovered more than a century ago. Caused by a protozoan parasite, it is found living in the walls of homes of lower income families, primarily in Latin America.
Chagas is spread by the triatomine bug, or “kissing bug” through human contact with the feces or urine of the bug. Less than half of the people infected show visible signs of the disease, including fever, swelling of the infection site, and difficulty breathing. But the infection, if not stopped early, will cause the destruction of the heart muscles and nervous system, often leading to heart failure and sudden death.
Six years ago Berta came to MAP wanting to help the women in her community. “I can’t stay like this,” she said. “My dream is to teach other women, to make them more powerful in their communities. When women come together, we can do more. That is my dream that we will work as a team for the betterment of our community.”
MAP International has worked in Bolivia for more than 30 years, and partnered with the AbbVie Foundation to launch an aggressive program to eradicate Chagas. Berta is now a trained Community Health Promoter with MAP. She works with the women in her community to stop the spread of Chagas disease, saving countless lives.
Grealda, just 25, has also been trained as a Community Health Promoter by MAP. Motivated by the desire to protect her young son from the painful death that comes with Chagas disease, Grealda decided to do something about it. “I share everything I learn with others,” she said. “I help families fix their homes and prevent the kissing bugs from living in their homes. We plant family gardens and I now know how to raise my child healthy.”
MAP is honored to feature these women on International Women's Day - passionate women dedicated to improving the health and well being of members of their community.
“Here's to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” – Unknown.
*Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in MAP's 2016 Winter Newsletter.