Today (Thursday) was our second to last day at CRHP. We were supposed to go out with the Mobile Health Team to one of the villages, but the visit got cancelled so we are doing that tomorrow instead. It will be nice to go out and visit the village one last time before we head to Delhi. One thing that we have definitely learned on this trip is how to be flexible when plans change!
Instead of shadowing the Mobile Health Team, Shobha set up two sessions with the village health workers. In the first session, we heard to story of a health worker who became the mayor of her village. It is so amazing hearing these women’s stories and how CRHP has empowered them to take control of their lives. She spoke about the stigma and oppression she faced as a little girl from the lowest caste and as a religious outsider. She told us of how she was inspired to become a health worker after seeing what another woman had been able to accomplish in the village. She told stories of resilience and persistence once she was elected mayor, and how she performed her political duties on top of her role as a health worker. At the end of the session, she spoke on how she retired from her position as mayor after five years in order to give others a chance to try the role. What truly amazed me, though, was her recognition that both health and political work should be in the best interests of all the people, including the poor. She ended her talk by saying that while it is only appropriate to be in politics for a short amount of time (although she still helps villagers with financial and legal issues if they ask her for help), being a village health worker is a lifetime job.
Our second session of the day was focused around alternative healthcare methods and appropriate technology. The session was run by Shiela, as she translated for four of the newest village health workers. It was amazing to see the skills and confidence in these women, who had only been working with CRHP for three years. They performed every remedy correctly and we could tell even Shiela was impressed.
Something we have talked much about while being at CRHP is the concept of developing health care and technology that is appropriate to the context of a given community. We have learned that not every ailment and disease needs the latest drugs and treatments of the big city hospitals, and that most often, there are remedies that mothers themselves can prepare in their homes. One of the biggest issues that the rural communities in South India are faced with is disease and sickness of newborn children, often due to malnutrition. The village health workers were able to show us two solutions that can be made in the home to rehydrate children if they have diarrhea. Both were made from boiling water and mixing it with ingredients found in the home which are rich in potassium, calcium, and electrolytes. What was truly amazing to see was how the women grasped the concept of the importance of clean water. They told us that the purpose of boiling the water was to get rid of the germs and contaminants before giving the solution to the child. They also acknowledged the fact that the reason the child had gotten sick in the first place was probably because they had drank unclean water. To hear women who had only begun training three years ago understand the importance of clean and safe water when this is not a norm in rural India was incredible. They were extremely knowledgeable and we all gathered that this had led to increased confidence and empowerment. While we have attended many sessions in the last two weeks about these ideas, it was incredible to see young women confident in themselves in a society that still degrades women and is extremely patriarchal.
Overall, it was a great day! Even though plans changed and we had to be flexible, it was great to hear these women’s stories and how CRHP has transformed their lives. We look forward to going out to the villages one last time and then heading to Delhi for the weekend!
Much love from Jamkhed!