Beyond Money
A woman with a mission: She safeguards maternal health in Himachal villages
Chamba (Himachal Pradesh) : In spite of advancing years, health worker Kaushalya, whose name roughly translates into "ability to do something well", is showing the light to women in one of the remotest areas of Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh. She has, in fact, dedicated 31 years to propagating institutional deliveries and providing health services like intrauterine contraceptive device and other contraceptive methods.
 
Kaushalya, 58, has been posted at the Kalsuin health sub-centre, 17 km from this town, some 450 km from the state capital Shimla, for the past 28 years.
 
"It's only the self-motivation and my inner spirit that drive me towards someone who's in labour and needs my help. I didn't mind working odd hours and in hostile weather. I love to provide 24-hour maternal healthcare facilities," a beaming Kaushalya told IANS.
 
In her profession as a female health worker, she has performed over 3,000 deliveries and related procedures -- without even a single case of either maternal or child mortality or foetus abortion.
 
At times, she also faces, with determination, the sensitive topic of female foeticide and the bias against the female child.
 
In recognition of her efforts to promote female reproductive health in the area, dominated mainly by the marginal and small farmers, the state government has designated Kalsuin sub-centre in the Churi block as the only "delivery point" in the state.
 
The five-bedded centre, which has a labour room and a baby-care room, has a provision of one male and one female health worker each.
 
According to her, in the past one decade she has conducted over 2,500 institutional deliveries and 257 intrauterine contraceptive device insertions at the Kalsuin centre, which caters to 18 villages with a population of around 2,000.
 
Most of the time she is the lone health worker posted there, despite the provision of a male health worker. There is no provision of a gynecologist or pediatrician.
 
She has handled many emergency cases as the specialist services are far removed from the Kalsuin centre.
 
"I can handle both antenatal and postnatal care," said Kaushalya, who is retiring in December.
 
In 1985, she joined the state health services as a female health worker at Dalli in Chamba district's Bharmour block.
 
Three years later, she was transferred to Kalsuin. At that time, the health centre was functioning from the panchayat building and lacked proper infrastructure.
 
It was because of her efforts that the health centre was shifted to a new building equipped with proper facilities.
 
Kaushalya, who was trained by Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust in reproductive and child healthcare, started midwifery in 1995 by facilitating deliveries at homes. Since 2005, she has been performing institutional deliveries at the Kalsuin centre.
 
Her contribution was recognised by the state government by conferring on her a district-level award in 2010 and a state level in 2011.
 
Himachal Pradesh is the only state in the country where 89.96 percent of the population as per 2011 census lives in rural areas.
 
To appreciate the enormity of Kaushalya's contribution, one only needs to read the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, which states that Himachal Pradesh has failed to provide 24-hour maternal healthcare facilities at 84 percent of its primary health centres under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
 
Of the 500 primary health centres, only 81 (16 percent) have been upgraded to provide round-the-clock delivery services but none of these had basic obstetric and nursing facilities like availability of a gynecologist, staff nurses and skilled birth attendants, the report said.
 
It said that out of the 500 primary health centres, labour rooms and newborn care units were not available in 308 and 493 centres.
 
During 2010-15, a total of 668,442 pregnant women were registered in the state.
 
Only 354,022 (53 percent) institutional deliveries were ensured in government institutions against the targeted 467,909 (70 percent), the CAG added.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Giving Them a Better Start
Tanuja Deshrajan helps street children learn basic skills so that they get admission into the best government schools
 
As a young mother, Tanuja Deshrajan was moved by the plight of a group of young children, who were the age of her own toddler son and whose life was about playing on the streets and begging for a living. She began to reflect on the futility of their existence and their grim future and decided that she must make the effort to give their lives the same chance as that of her own son. The way forward was education. 
 
“I started a school under the shade of a tree with a small number of children. It has now turned into a movement and we have 200 children in our school that has classes up to 5th standard. We also run women empowerment programmes like a sewing centre, a centre to make dry nashtas and adult education programmes.”
Tanuja, with an MSc degree in organic chemistry and an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University), is also involved in a struggle to change mindsets even at home. “The first difficulty I faced was to convince those closest to me—my family. They couldn’t understand why their daughter-in-law wanted to help children of ‘lesser’ families go to school, or why women, in general, should do work of their choice. I believed that if the women and children who needed education understood, everyone else would follow.”
 
Her perseverance worked and she now provides free education to children at Baliraja Sunrise School, Mainath village (Aligarh district, Uttar Pradesh). Her passion emanates from her strong belief that children must be able to learn, free of cost, and that her own educational qualifications would be of value only if they serve a useful social purpose. “Each of us, who is proud of our teachers and our educational qualifications, should pass on the benefit of education on to children,” she says.
 
With justifiable pride, she says, “Most people have stories to tell of the education they received in their first 22 years. My story isn’t about that luxury; it is one of providing it. My story is about how I gave the latter 22 years of my life to create and continuously improve the education system in a village called Mainath, and how that still continues to be a privilege.” 
 
Children at her school are taught with the objective that they should get admission into the best government schools for higher education. This means a focus on quality as well as bringing more children into the fold. The latter is possible by involving their mothers as well. Tanuja explains it best when she says, “We, as a community of people, tend to discriminate on the basis of caste and gender; domestic violence and lack of education for women are a part of life. Our children must also grow out of such mindsets and our women, especially mothers, should move away from this. Our boys, as adults, should be trained to give up such discriminatory attitudes and behaviour.”
 
Tanuja’s effort to expand her work received support from Vaibhav Lall, chief editor of Rise for India, who has created an online crowd funding platform to raise Rs1.5 lakh for her school to get furniture, stationery, books, computers, sports equipment and library facilities and to pay salaries for the teachers. He says, “Tanuja’s story is not only an inspiration for her village, but for the entire nation. You can also become a part of her story by contributing in the fund raising campaign going on to help her in sustaining the noble initiative.” You can contribute by clicking on http://www.giveripple.in/campaign/helptanuja  and help change the lives of some children.
 
Baliraja Sunrise School
Tanuja Deshrajan,
c/o Rakesh Deshrajan
Village – Mainath, Post – Mukundpur,
Agra Road, District Aligarh, 
Uttar Pradesh 202001
Mobile: 9639337566, 9639576766

 

Mother of Orphans
A street-smart fighter, Sindhutai Sapkal broke free from mind-numbing abuse, to become the ‘mai’ to over a thousand orphans.
 
Badly beaten and kicked on her stomach by her husband when she was nine-months pregnant, Sindhutai Sapkal was dumped in a cowshed probably expecting her to be trampled to death. The 20-year-old gave birth to a daughter that night. Her saga of survival, endurance and ultimate triumph over adversity, to become the mother—‘mai’—of a thousand destitute and orphaned children, sounds surreal and like a fairytale. 
 
Her journey over the past 40 years began with her taking on the care of children lost or abandoned at railway stations, where she begged for a living. The effort has now grown into an enduring organisation that includes four orphanages providing a home to over 1,050 children. There is one shelter for cows as well. She likes to say that her grand family comprises 207 sons-in-law, 36 daughters-in-law and several grandchildren.  
 
The difference between orphanages run by Mai and other institutions is that the children do not have to leave at 18; they stay on until they get a job or are married and settled in their own homes. Many of the children nurtured by her have gone on to become doctors, lecturers, advocates and lawyers; but they remain very much attached to her. One is even doing a PhD on Mai’s life. Her life story has been captured in a biopic—Mee Sindhutai Sapkal, a film directed by Ananth Mahadeven—that was selected for world premiere at the 54th London Film Festival.
 
Her mission is “To bring up the orphans, destitute, distressed, children and women, rehabilitate them and provide them with basic necessities. To uplift the deprived section of the society and make them capable of living as respected human beings.”
 
While setting up her first orphanage, she gave up her own daughter to an orphanage so that she could remain fair to all the other children she had adopted over the years. 
 
Sindhutai’s work is fully funded by private donations and backed with other help by people from various walks of life. In her younger days, Sindhutai begged (at railway stations) or sang bhajans for a living; today, she uses her amazing power of oration to reach out to people. What shines through her talks is her extraordinary courage and intelligence. She peppers her speech with Urdu couplets and teachings of the saints from bhakti movement. She shares anecdotes from her life, making light of the travails and indignities she suffered; yet, she evokes tears, laughter and frequent applause. She usually ends her speeches with an appeal for funds and donations tend to pour in. These include plots of land and houses including one such donation by a retired high court judge.
 
She says, “I am still a beggar. I have experienced what it feels like to have no one with you, no place to go to, no shelter and no food to eat, for days. My work makes me feel like someone is helping me heal my own wounds.”
 
Over the years, Sindhutai’s life story has been documented in the form of a book; she has received over 750 awards and has been honoured by two Presidents of India. She has used most of her award money to buy land to make a home for her orphan children.
 
While Sindhutai Sapkal herself is an institution, she has set up two parent bodies, namely, Saptasindhu Mahila Adhar Balsangopan Aani Shikshan Sanstha (Pune) and Vanvasi Gopalkrushna Shikshan Krida Prasarak Mandal (Amravati). She runs four orphanages viz., Sanmati Bal Niketan at Manjari (Pune), Mamata Bal Sadan (Saswad), Savitribai Phule Muleenche Vastigruha (Chikhaldara) and Abhiman Bal Bhavan (Wardha). She also runs a cow shelter called Gopika Gai Rakshan Kendra at Wardha.
 
Sindhutai always invites people to visit her ashrams and see the work for themselves; you may like to visit her and join her efforts. Details of how to donate are given on the website and donations are tax-exempt under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act. 
 
Sanmati Bal Niketan Sanstha
Belhekar Vasti,
Near Vasantdada Sugar Institute,
Manjari (Bk), Tal Haveli, 
Dist. Pune -412 307
Telephone: +91-20-26999541

 

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COMMENTS

Narendra Doshi

2 years ago

The video & presentation at Pune was life changer. I wish I was at Pune to hear her, physically. Kudos to ML for this great presentation.

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