In COVID Pandemic, when all the educational institutes are shut and exams are either deferred or cancelled, students are very anxious about their future. In rural area where facilities for on-line education are very limited, girls specially those above 15-16 years are very much worried about their future. We often here incidences, where girls are married off hurriedly, putting a full stop to their education.
Here is a story of Anita, who has showed a ray of hope amidst the dark clouds. Anita scored 68% in HSSC exam in 2020, this score may sound small but when one will read the challenges of Anita’s life , then this score will appear very big.
Anita lives in a village in Akola district of Maharashtra. Her father, a farmer, committed suicide and since then Anita along with her mother trying to cope up with the stress and trauma. She often worked in the field with her mother to earn wages and often has to take break from school to take care of home and her three young siblings. Anita remained cheerful even when she developed fibroid in ovary at such young age. Fighting all odds, Anita cleared her HSSC exam and dream to get a decent job. Prakriti has donated a sewing machine to Anita and her mother, so that both of them can have additional income.
Kudos to Anita’s mother also as she stood by her side when there was pressure to marry of Anita. Such examples from the community give strong positive message that educating a girl always help in empowering other family members as well.
Sheela (name changed) is just 23 years old and lived in Babulkheda village of Nagpur, Maharashtra. Her poor parents married her off to a farmer about 40 km from her village. After marriage, Sheela stayed with her husband and mother in law in her marital home. Few months later Sheela’s husband started abusing her, beating her. Meanwhile Sheela became pregnant, but was not given proper attention by her husband and other family members. Her name was not registered with ASHA worker and at Aanganwadi, so she skipped her initial vaccines
After marriage, Sheela did not interact much with village women and nor did ASHA worker and Aanganwadi worker visited Sheela’s house. Sheela’s husband was very cruel , he not only thrashed pregnant Sheela but made her write on Stamp paper that Sheela has no objection even if her husband remarries.
Sheela returned to her parent’s home in extreme weak condition. She was four month’s pregnant and complained of pain in her lower abdomen and was bleeding. Sheela’s status was seen by Prakriti’s village worker and then both of them came to Prakriti’s office. Sheela narrated her story to Prakriti team. Sheela’s physical and mental health was very weak and her parents too were not supportive. So Prakriti’s team got in touch with ASHA worker and Aanganwadi workers of Babulkheda village and ensured that she get needed help and care. Sheela came to Prakriti in mid-March, soon after which lockdown was declared.
When lockdown was eased, Prakriti team came to know that her parents forcefully sent Sheela back to her marital house. At marital home, Sheela’s husband snatched away her mobile phone and thus the only means of communication with Sheela is lost.
Sheela’s parents were not keen to have regular contact with Sheela as they feel talking frequently with Sheela may annoy her husband and she may be subjected to further violence.
Now Sheela is in her last trimester and Prakriti is trying to get in touch with ASHA worker of the village through Sheela’s parents. The ASHA workers are entirely responsibility of an expectant mother and they need to ensure institutional delivery. However, in COVID pandemic, the ASHA workers are burdened with house surveys, monitoring of people moving in and out of village, supervising people in quarantine, so the care for pregnant women has taken back seat.
The additional load of COVID pandemic, work was put risk on health of pregnant women like Sheela, who need extra and specialized care. Like Sheela, few such cases of pregnant women whose vaccination was delayed or ASHA worker had no time to attend to her complaints etc
There are two more villages in Prakriti’s field area i Nagpur district, where ASHA worker is not appointed. Thus to address various issues of health care at village level, Prakriti is trying to strengthen the village health, water supply and sanitation committee.
On the basis of this case study and experience from the field, Prakriti wish to mention following suggestions:-
1. Village level health- water supply and sanitation committees need to be strengthened and funds for these committees should be disbursed on time.
2. ASHA workers to be appointed in all villages.
3. In COVID pandemic, pregnant women who are victims of domestic violence, who are weak and malnourished, who are from families whose employment is lost due to lockdown need special attention and care by ASHA and Anganwadi workers.
It is true that Covid related protocols and safety measures are important at the moment, but that does not justify negligence of other heath care. If pregnant women like Sheela, did not receive timely attention by the health care staff then it will risk their life and also of the baby.
Beside the above Relief kit including Edible Oil, Sugar, Pulses, Millets, Tea Powder was provided to 45 rural women