Gladis Gómez, the President of a rural health committee funded by the EU and trained by the Guatemalan Red Cross, emphasizes the importance of healthy habits in building a strong and healthy community. In Guatemala, where over 50% of the population lives below the poverty line, these committees, predominantly led by rural women, play a significant role in sharing reliable health information with their local communities. The EU collaborates with the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) in 24 countries globally to ensure that local health committees receive quality training to support their communities. Through this Programmatic Partnership, IFRC, member National Societies, and the EU assist communities worldwide in reducing risks and improving preparedness for disasters and health emergencies.
Gladis Gómez, dressed in a purple Huipil, which symbolizes mourning as she recently experienced the loss of a distant relative, serves as the President of her village’s health committee, Xecaracoj. This committee brings together a group of rural women who receive training from the Guatemalan Red Cross on essential health topics to promote healthy practices. One of their primary objectives is to visit households and educate people on how to prevent common illnesses and deaths, particularly among children. Their work is crucial as Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition globally.
Gladis expresses their dedication to disseminating the knowledge provided by the Guatemalan Red Cross to inform men, boys, and girls about simple yet impactful practices such as hand washing, maintaining clean homes and streets, and the significance of breastfeeding and nutrition. The efforts of local health committees like Gladis’s have benefitted 1,250 families in the rural area of Quetzaltenango in western Guatemala, providing them with valuable and trusted health advice.
Gladis takes pride in her work and appreciates that she and her fellow committee members’ voices are being heard. To reach a wider audience, they utilize radio spots, information kiosks, and messaging apps like WhatsApp to share their knowledge.
As Gladis weaves a traditional Mayan skirt known as a corte, she mentions that she will wear a yellow Huipil the following day, representing the color of life, the sun’s rays, and corn. She recognizes the unique knowledge possessed by the women in her community, enabling them to protect and cherish life.