March 8th is International Women’s Day— a day to celebrate and uplift women, their work, and their rights! At CMMB, women are not only the focus of many of our programs but also absolutely essential to our work, as the majority of our community health workers around the world are women.

We stand together, celebrating women’s contributions to society, raising awareness about the fight for gender parity and highlighting the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions in the interest of creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we are sharing the story of one of our heroes in Haiti, Miss Joanne Baptiste. 

Meet Joanne Baptiste, Registered Nurse

Côtes-de-Fer, Haiti is a extremely remote and impoverished community in southern Haiti. It’s a place where donkeys and goats outnumber cars on the dirt roads and where the majority of residents live without running water or electricity. It is also the location of CMMB’s Bishop Joseph Sullivan Center for Health, a hospital that opened its doors in 2017.

For nurse, Joanne Baptiste, Côtes-de-Fer is simply “home.”

joanne and a baby in cotes de fer

Not everyone loves when the nurse comes to visit! Joanne and a baby during a home visit.

Joanne was born and raised in Côtes-de-Fer. When she was just ten years old, her family moved to Port-au-Prince to seek better opportunities and a better life.

As a little girl, Joanne was inspired by her aunt who worked as a nurse. She made up her mind that one day, she too, would become a nurse and help sick people get better. This dream motivated her to work hard and to continue her education.

Joining CMMB

Joanne has been working with CMMB as our Children and Mothers Partnerships (CHAMPS) manager in Côtes-de-Fer since 2014. She works at the community level and at the hospital with women and children affected by poverty. Joanne is a VERY busy nurse. She manages our amazing network of community health workers, organizes vaccination and malnutrition clinics, leads Mother’s Clubs that provide health education and tools to mothers in the communities, and she coordinates care for pregnant mothers and newborns, to name just a few!

joanne at a home visit

Joanne delivers important health news to mothers during her home visits.

Walking around Côtes-de-Fer with Joanne is like walking around with a local celebrity. She is inundated by greetings: “Bonswa Ms Joanne!” “Bonjou Joanne!” “Kijan ou ye, Ms Joanne?” She knows everyone and everyone knows her. The love she has for her community is undeniable. And it’s remarkable – though not surprising – to see just how much her community loves her back. Her commitment to improving their lives means that people are incredibly grateful.

Joanne and the community health workers

Joanne (blue shirt) and some of her team of community health workers

I am fascinated by motherhood. I love seeing women give birth to healthy babies. It brings me great joy.

Joanne told us that the most inspiring part of her job is working with pregnant mothers. Her work over the past two years has been focused on ensuring women in the community attend their pre-and-postnatal visits and deliver their babies at the hospital.

Joanne’s passion for healthy pregnancies, safe births, and women in her community has saved lives.

joanne anecdote edited

On any given day, Joanne can be found traveling from home visits to the hospital to check on a new mom to the clinic where her team is administering anti-worming medicine to sick children. No day is ever the same. But Joanne said she likes it that way.

“My days pass quickly because there is so much to do. I believe the work I do helps to improve the quality of people’s lives in my community. For that, I am so grateful.”

Gratitude for Healthcare (S)Heroes

Across our programs all around the world, women health workers, like Joanne, are dedicating their lives to help their communities live healthier lives. We are proud to stand with these women every single day. They make our work possible and bring love to the people they serve. Today on International Women’s Day (and every day!) we thank Joanne and all the women we work with for all that they do.