Weaving Hope: Hermelinda, the Community Wisdom that Saves Lives

Mrs. Hermelinda Hernández, a 68-year-old expert in natural medicine from the municipality of La Paz, Honduras, is one of the female leaders of the Lenca community invited to participate in a knowledge exchange in the city of La Esperanza as part of the efforts of PAHO/WHO to improve women's health. She has studied and practiced traditional medicine for many years, acquiring extensive knowledge about plants and their healing properties. In addition to valuing her knowledge in herbal medicine, Hernández recognizes the importance of the role of doctors in disease treatment.

La Esperanza, Intibucá, 20 April 2023

In Honduras, high rates of maternal and neonatal mortality are often the result of multiple factors, including socioeconomic barriers, lack of access to adequate healthcare services, gaps in education and awareness about maternal and child health, and cultural differences.

Hernández, who is familiar with the local practices and beliefs of her community and also recognizes the value of professional medical interventions, participated in the "Knowledge Dialogues Methodology" workshop organized by the Honduran Ministry of Health with the support of PAHO/WHO and funded by Global Affairs Canada. The workshop aimed to promote mutual understanding between midwives and healthcare providers to reach agreements that improve the health of women, and adolescent girls in situations of vulnerability within the community.

According to health experts, the involvement of community personnel who are aware of the needs of their community and possess ancestral knowledge and traditional medicine can play a fundamental role in effectively addressing this issue.

The importance of reducing maternal and neonatal mortality is a global challenge that requires comprehensive and community-specific approaches. " Stated Lucy Cerrato, national technical officer for health promotion and social determinants at PAHO/WHO in Honduras.

During the workshop, Hernández shared her knowledge and experiences in traditional medicine, as well as her methods for advising women and adolescents, with healthcare professionals and other women. Additionally, she learned about laws and rights for the protection of women and girls who are victims of violence and how to guide them to seek timely assistance to keep their lives safe.