Murshidat: Female Primary Health Care Workers Transforming Society in Yemen

This documentary video, based on anthropological research by Dr. Delores M. Walters, highlights the female primary health care workers (murshidat) who were at the center of a remarkable transformation in health care and social relations in Yemen during the 1990s. Women with a sixth grade education and one year of medical training became agents of change in the coastal Tihamah area of Yemen, where an African presence is most visible in the landscape, customs, and physical features of the residents.

By rendering health services to coastal Yemenis who have historical and contemporary cultural/ethnic ties to the horn of Africa and incorporating them into the training and health care program, the murshidate are modeling the behaviors of a more egalitarian society in accordance with Islamic and constitutional ideals.

The video features the murshidat's home visits and daily routines as they provide immunizations, prenatal and well-baby monitoring, family planning and nutrition information, malaria treatment, and delivery room services. The murshidat also speak out on their changing roles and achievements and aspire to improve their work and home environments

The video Murshidat: Female Primary Health Care Workers Transforming Society in Yemen was originally intended as a recruitment tool for use by the women in Yemen. Development workers, health officials, policy makers and others in Yemen were also a primary audience for the film. However, the success of the murshidat is applicable to countless developed and developing countries where healthy, inclusive communities and economic and personal empowerment by and for women are priorities. Therefore the video is also deal for college and community group discussions on women's roles in overcoming racial, ethnic and economic inequality; health care delivery and accessibility; and community development in the context of the global economy.

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Project director: Dr. Delores M. Walters, a cultural anthropologist who specializes in community-based multicultural education courses and programs.

Project funding: AIYS/USIA and Fulbright-Hays Fellowships and a grant from the Dutch government's aid to Yemen program through Women Making Movies, New York City.

Video distribution: Penn State Media Sales. 1999. 35 mins. $50.00.

Online Publications
D. Walters, "Murshidat, Midwives, and Nurses: Muslim Women Transforming Health Care and Social Relations in Yemen," Yemen Update 40 (1998) 32.

Dr. Walters has also provided the video with a companion discussion guide.

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