[ BLOG ] Workshop on Plant Use and Women’s Reproductive Health

(Published in the Society for Medical Anthropology Newsletter, Second Opinion 3(2), 2015)

This series of pictures was taken in April 2015, while I was conducting fieldwork in Chiapas. My colleague and the founder of the Women and Midwives Section of the Organization of Indigenous Doctors of Chiapas. Micaela Icó Bautista, has been organizing workshops on women’s health for more than 30 years with Tseltal and Tsotsil healers and midwives in communities of Highland Chiapas. As a volunteer for her, I served as the photographer on this occasion while she asked questions and stimulated the conversation in Tsotsil.

This workshop was hosted at a traditional midwife’s house, and we were surprised by the number of people who came, especially the men. With about 40 adults, this was a particularly big audience.

Before it starts, Micaela, the midwife, and her son-in-law went into the milpa (cornfield) behind the house to look for some medicinal plants that could be discussed during the workshop.


Micaela and the midwife’s son-in-law in the milpa

Unlike government or other NGO workshops modeled on a top-down relationship between the facilitator and the audience, Micaela uses popular education tools and acts as a catalyst for the conversations. That way, the participants each share their experience and medical knowledge about a topic. Our original idea for the workshop was to talk about menopause. During the icebreaker, however, other concerns emerged, so we started by addressing these issues.


Micaela giving instructions for the icebreaker. Participants are placed within a rope circle and then move together as a group toward the diseases they want to eradicate.


Micaela talking to the group. In the background, the poster paper with plant recipes to treat some of the diseases discussed during the Icebreaker.


A woman sharing her experience during the workshop. Children follow their parents, especially their mothers, during daily activities. The fertility rate for indigenous women who are 35 and older is 6.1.


After the workshop, the recipes are left at the midwife’s house for everyone to consult. In her office, Micaela goes through the audios and notes taken during the workshops in the different communities, and edits booklets compiling the recipes in order for the community to keep transmitting its knowledge.


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