A Women’s Development Army: Narratives of Community Health Worker Investment and Empowerment in Rural Ethiopia
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Creating community health worker jobs in the public sector is a prominent goal in the global health-development industry. According to industry leaders, Ethiopia’s government has created community health worker jobs at a scale and in a way that other countries can look to as a model. Based on extensive document review and interviews with district, national, and international health officials, we show that narratives about Saving Lives, Empowering Women, and Creating Model Citizens in a context of resource scarcity allow Ethiopia’s ruling party to obtain international admiration for creating salaried community health worker jobs and to simultaneously avoid criticisms of its concurrent use of unpaid women’s community health labor. Public sector community health worker investments in the 21st century are revealing of the layered narratives inherent in global development practices that entangle states, international donors, NGOs, and citizens.