Village women’s confidant

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Village women’s confidant

Excerpt from the conversation with Malendri Majhi, Swasthya Sathi

“In my 7 years of working as SWASTHYA SATHI, I have gained more confidence and respect in my village”, says Malendri Majhi. Swasthya Sathi is a village health worker chosen from among the women of the village and given periodic training on primary diagnosis and health practices. In a village tucked away in the interiors of Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary, Malendri welcomed us with a warm smile. She had just come from her work in the donger.

When asked about her biggest achievement so far, she was quick to highlight that there were many Low Birth Weight (LBW) babies in the initial years, but now it has been reduced to nil. She quickly added that all pregnant women from her village receive 4 checkups. Receiving all 4 health checkups during pregnancy is a huge achievement. For context, in the year 2021-22, only 30.5% received all four ANC checkups in all the project villages of Swasthya Swaraj. She gleamed with pride when she mentioned it.

As we were talking few women came in with complaints of cough and fever. She pulls a big can of ‘Viagri leham’ fills a smaller box with it, and guides the woman on the specifics of taking the medicine. She also hands over a couple of Paracetamol tablets. We watched her do it with such ease and confidence. She then turned to us to add that working with women is the favourite part of her job. Over the years she has closely worked with pregnant women, seen their journey throughout the pregnancy, knows who are the high-risk pregnancies who need her special attention, motivate all to attend the antenatal camps of Swasthya Swaraj without fail, accompany those who need special care to the hospital, and followed up with them in case of any difficulty and in some cases, helped them through delivery and following up the newborn baby and postnatal care of the mother. She recalls lessons from the monthly trainings and tries to say the exact words the trainer told them.

“To know that they can confide in me their problems, makes me happy doing this work”

Malendri Majhi

In most of the village meetings she conducts for women, she speaks about care during pregnancy and the importance of the health and nutrition of the mother. She stresses doing less laborious work, especially during the 3 rd trimester, and taking nutritious food. In these meetings, she also talks about the concept of spacing and why it is important for the mother and the family. “These days, a lot of women come forward to register themselves once they are pregnant. I need not take the trouble to pull them for checkups like I used to”, says Malendri.

She lowered her tone and came closer to me as she said women also come to her with other problems. In many instances, women do not know how to draw boundaries with their partners. Malendri recalls that she talks to the women and sometimes has even taken the women to the clinic. “To know that they can confide in me their problems, makes me happy doing this work”, says Malendri. There are women from her village who themselves ask for inserting ‘Copper-T’ and insist on understanding why the spacing is important. “There was a very strong belief that the more the children, the better. This belief is slowly fading”, adds Malendri. Clearly, the health-seeking behavior of the pregnant women in the village has improved over the years and the words of Malendri is a testament to that.

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