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Activists for Health Rights or Exploited Workers? Rajasthan, India's Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) in Social Context

Tuesday, February 26, 2019
9:30am – 10:45am

Storrs Campus
Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Center

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 9:30am - 10:45am

Storrs Campus Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Please join us for a public talk by Svea Closser, PhD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Community Health Workers increasingly are touted as a cost-effective solution to global shortages of doctors, nurses, and other trained health staff. In India, nearly a million women have been deployed as Accredited Social Health Activists, or ASHAs. The ASHA program was conceived both to support these women in advocating for the right to health in their communities and to fill human resource gaps. Following the program on the ground in a town in Rajasthan, India, this talk explores how ASHAs themselves experience their work. The program has shifted social relations at the family level in surprising ways, giving young married women more mobility and new opportunities. Yet they are also exploited workers, laboring at the bottom of a bureaucratic hierarchy with little opportunity to advocate for their own rights, much less those of their neighbors. Most of the women who take these positions do so in the hopes that these currently low-paying, contingent jobs will become “permanent” government positions with minimum-wage salaries, advancement opportunities, vacations, and retirement benefits. Many have been organizing to this end. Given their social position, however, creating an effective union that puts their needs first has thus far been a severe challenge.

Svea Closser, PhD, MPH is an anthropologist in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the interaction between global health policy and local health systems. In her current project, funded by the Fulbright/Nehru program, she is studying the work experiences and social relations of female Community Health Workers in India. She is the author of Chasing Polio in Pakistan (Vanderbilt University Press, 2010), as well as many research articles. Dr. Closser is also co-editor of the undergraduate textbooks Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology (Routledge, 2016), and Foundations of Global Health (Oxford University Press, 2018).

This event is sponsored by the Research Program on Global Health & Human Rights at the Human Rights Institute.


Human Rights Institute (primary), UConn Master Calendar

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