In a living room above a tienda along the side of the Pan American highway, I assisted Yoli as she gave weekly women’s health classes. During the sixth of a series of seven sessions, Yoli addressed the topic of domestic violence. After opening with an activity focused on gender equality, Yoli then started a discussion with the simple prompt of asking what the participants had experienced as far as gender roles and the various forms of domestic violence in their own lives, families, and communities. What followed was a conversation that followed between three generations of women, who came from different families, but from the same small community. A widow in her sixties acknowledged her newfound recognition of the injustice she endured during her life, while another woman spoke of the challenges she currently faces in finding respect and support from her husband in her responsibilities for her children and home. A young mother of eighteen discussed her and her husband’s shared roles, with her reliance on him especially as she continues her studies at the local school. This encounter was just once instance of something that I repeatedly witnessed as I visited different communities with Yoli and others from Wuku’ Kawoq for clinical consults, home visits, and classes. This conversation supplied validation and understanding of each individual’s personal experiences, and an opportunity to discuss individual successes, challenges, and goals for their health and life. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see the value of all of this: both in terms of building supportive, sustained relationships and in terms of the evidenced positive outcomes that result when health professionals care so much about meeting their patients where they are at, as they partner with them on their health journey.
See to the left: Yoli (with her hand on her heart) has a moment with a women’s health patient.
See below: (from left to right Yoli, Lauren, and our other intern Sara)