Community Health Workers as Rights Defenders: The Mitanin Experience in India

Date: June 2023
Author(s): Suchi Pande
Publication type: Scholarly journal article
Published by: Development in Practice

Women community health workers from a government-run program in India have been unusually successful in combining rights-based advocacy with work on healthcare tasks paid for by the state.

Over two decades, 70,000 indigenous women “Mitanins” (community health workers) have advanced both the health and gender rights of members of the communities they are part of, and their own labor rights. Being able to strategically advocate for both types of rights is an experience unmatched by their counterparts in other parts of the world.

This Development in Practice Note focuses on two elements of this experience: the movement-building approach of a government-run program to empower frontline community health workers, and the role of a hybrid agency in prioritizing social mobilization by these workers to improve healthcare delivery.

Suchi Pande is scholar-in-residence at the Accountability Research Center. She has extensive research and practical experience in the field of social accountability, including implementing right to information laws and public oversight processes, consultancies with international organizations, leadership of action-research initiatives at American University in the US, and doctoral research at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in the UK. Before joining ARC, Suchi worked with the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan in India. She is currently researching national grievance redress mechanisms in the public sector.