Studies in Comparative International Development

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 455–478 | Cite as

A Women’s Development Army: Narratives of Community Health Worker Investment and Empowerment in Rural Ethiopia

  • Kenneth Maes
  • Svea Closser
  • Ethan Vorel
  • Yihenew Tesfaye


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 twenty-first century reveal the layered narratives inherent in global development practices that entangle states, international donors, NGOs, and citizens.


Ethiopia Women’s empowerment Community health workers Citizenship Population health 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth Maes
    • 1
  • Svea Closser
    • 2
  • Ethan Vorel
    • 2
  • Yihenew Tesfaye
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology & AnthropologyMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

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