By Nicole Tse
In the Guatemalan department of Chimaltenango, an organization is working to improve the lives and health of not only the people in their area of influence, but also the women who take care of them. The Civil Association of Traditional Midwives of Chimaltenango (ACOTCHI in Spanish) was founded on October 12, 2004, by a group of traditional midwives. They had realized that, organized like this, they could deal more effectively with the shared obstacles that affected them all. The association is a non-political, non-religious, and non-profit organization. Currently, it is headquartered in the municipality of San Juan Comalapa.
The association’s objective consists of two parts. Like any other medical organization, it wishes to support the inhabitants of Chimaltenango. Above all, it focuses on neonatal maternal and infant mortality rates and tries to reduce them. ACOTCHI offers free medical consultations, especially for the women and children of the municipalities. They also offer basic pharmaceutical services and medicine at a low cost (they only charge a small percentage to offset the costs of purchase and transportation).
Besides this, ACOTCHI’s other purpose is to improve the living conditions of the associated midwives, promoting them in society and building confidence in them. It hopes to achieve this improvement through education and training of its members. There are monthly workshops with topics such as the prevention of sickness, first aid, mental health, and sexually transmitted infections. Other topics, related to the health of the community, include women’s rights and youth’s rights. They even offer literacy workshops for the midwives. These workshops are given by experienced midwives and volunteering doctors.
2,250 people have benefited directly from ACOTCHI’s actions, and even more indirectly. The association collaborates with the Ministry of Public Health and other non-governmental organizations to promote the rights of the traditional midwives and to combat the problems that limit their work.
In 2014, ACOTCHI participated in EntreMundo’s small donations program. They presented a project titled “Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women”, which was approved. With the support of EntreMundos, the members of ACOTCHI performed pap smears: 250 in 2014 and 314 the next year. The women who were examined were chosen based on the following factors: “Women between 25 and 54 years of age, who have never had a pap smear or who last had one two years ago, with risk factors, early initial sexual activity, history of human papillomavirus infection. And women from rural areas and of low socioeconomic status.”
“With this project,” they explained, “we showed the potential that midwives have through their training, and through contributions to society when they have the resources and qualified personnel to provide services with a cultural focus.”