Suposhan Sanginis: Heroes changing the world of rural women

New Delhi: Men and women are often differentiated on the basis of “gender role” and the tasks assigned to them. The question is, who has defined these roles and assigned these functions? And are they still valid? Are we limiting our present capacity to maintain only age-old social structures? Other biological and physiological differences aside, both sexes have a brain and a heart to function.

Also, if we look at the letters ‘W’ and ‘M’, both are opposite forms of each other. Today we present the stories of some women who have rejected the so-called gender specific roles and have taken the lead to make a difference.

1. Superstitions and Myths Busted: SS Moushumi, 30 Years – A Changemaker in Chawlapur Village, Haldia, West Bengal

Belonging to a conservative joint family and being the mother of a four-year-old child, Moushumi’s desire to do something for her community was suppressed. She kept herself busy at home and was very particular about adopting proper eating habits, personal hygiene and babysitting practices. Her family maintained good health, but things were different outside. she could see many pregnant women

Being a victim of superstition. Due to age-old beliefs, pregnant women were forbidden from consuming dairy, certain fruits, vegetables, oils. It is also difficult to persuade them to opt for institutional delivery and vaccination.

On becoming a Suposhan Sangini, she was determined to bridge the knowledge gap. Initially, she struggled with prenatal care registration, caseloads of malnourished children (13 SAM and 21 MAM), reluctance to consume IFA tablets, and more. She continued to demonstrate the benefits of all the right practices through numerous aides, discussions, and cooking demonstrations. she travels

Every day 10-12 households and families also engage men through counseling. This has created a tendency to change the abilities and behavior of women. As per data source from VHSND, out of 125 children in the village pregnancy registration is 100%, 0% severe acute malnourished children and only 4% moderately acute malnourished children.

2. Dependent to Dependent: SS Chandraprabha Ahirwar, 28 Years – A Changemaker in Mohangiri Slum, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh

In a small town like Vidisha where women are not allowed to work, the Adani Foundation has trained ten women to become wellness partners. Chandraprabha Ahirwar is one of them. Before joining the project, she was better known as the ‘Bahu’ of her region. She always had health issues, which made her dependent on her in-laws’ pension for medical expenses. To add to her troubles, her husband remained unemployed for the whole year. Upon meeting the two accomplices, he was inspired to come out and earn for himself. Trained as a Sangini, she took charge of her health first. Haven’t looked back now.

In the last two years, they have conducted baseline survey of 896 families, universal anthropometry of 265 children and HB screening of 890 adolescent girls. She confidently supports the ICDS workers and spreads awareness on the importance of good nutritional status. She ensures maximum participation of beneficiaries in village level programs and her efforts are appreciated by ICDS staff. Chandraprabha transformed from a hesitant person to a people person.

3. No age for education: SS Mamina Pradhan, 34 years – a changemaker in Ravindra Nagar village, Dosinga GP, Odisha

It was a sad moment when Mamina’s husband left her with the younger son and forcibly took the elder to another village. Going through the “cursed” life she had been thinking of for more than 2 years, something changed when she saw the appearance of an accomplice in her vicinity. After her brother persuaded her to join the nutrition project – after all, she was a matriculation pass – she gave up with hesitation. However, Mamina was skeptical of getting the approval of the village community.

With monthly nutrition training and subsequent activities, she earned a new identity. She went back to study – she passed her 12th class exams and then graduated through a distance learning program. She did so in line with her duties as an accomplice. This prompted him to do pathology training course in 2021. Today she is working in the pathology laboratory of her own village, looking after her son’s schooling. She knows that education is the key to independence and is setting a strong example for her community especially young girls.

4. To bring about a change within a change: SS Sanju Devi, 35 years – a changemaker in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Sanju’s dream was to become a teacher or a trainer, but she was married off at the age of 17, soon after finishing class 12th. Her life now revolved around family responsibilities and there was a chance to study further. She gave birth to two children in successive years. In an ugly turn of events, her husband, who was alcoholic and unemployed for most of the year, kicked her out of the family.

He took refuge in his maternal home but soon realized that he needed to find work. Around the same time, she got an opportunity to become Suposhan Sangini.

Field’s exposure and learning added immense confidence to her personality, which was enough to inspire other young women who were battling similar issues. He actively participated in training on public health, nutrition and childcare.

Seeing her determination and progress, her husband was inspired to find employment. Being the decision maker of her family, she is integrating education, healthy eating and better living standards. With her learnings and experience as part of the Suposhan project, she has recently been hired as an ASHA worker, and feels like she is living her dream.

5. Going Above and Beyond: SS Sampa Ghorai Das, 30 Years – A Changemaker in Kismat Shivram Nagar, Haldia, West Bengal

Sampa took the initiative to kick-start the conversation about menstrual hygiene for adolescent girls while removing the socio-cultural barriers around them. After some focused group discussions, she realized that counseling would not be enough. Poor practice of menstrual hygiene had several social determinants, one of them being non-availability of sanitary napkins in the local shop.

Sampa as a personal initiative decided to arrange stock of sanitary napkins at his home. Now girls could approach him to buy sanitary napkins without any hesitation. Sangini acted as a facilitator, beyond his prescribed duties, and without any monetary gain. Till now 230 adolescent girls are using sanitary napkins in the village. It has also created a safe space to talk about various menstrual hygiene issues.

6. Dietary Adequacy at the Doorstep: SS Hemlata Bairagi, 46 years – a changemaker in Gudha and Bishan Pura, Bundi, Rajasthan

Hemlata’s life took a complete turn when she became a Suposhan Sangini. After being indoors for many years, it was difficult to get out of the house due to domestic pressure.

But eight people in the family had to feed and someone had to go out. Her village was divided into four phaliyas and she was assigned the farthest phaliya – the one that was often left unattended even by the anganwadi worker.

With her routine of household surveys, screening of children, family counseling and other project activities, she supported the Anganwadi worker in terms of updating data and identifying children in need of attention. Since this project promotes the development of Poshan Vatika, he first developed a Vatika at his home. He grew all seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruits. Seeing the production, she was excited to use her three years of training to incorporate it all in cooking. He started a kind of movement in that Phaliya. All the women were encouraged to grow vegetables in the open courtyard. Within months the barren, unusable land was made ready for cultivation.

Home dietary diversity improved as Hemlata demonstrated nutritious recipes, especially in the homes of pregnant women and teenage girls.

7. Empowered as an Empowerment: SS Suchitra Manjhi, 28 years – a changemaker in Bancha and Dhankuta villages in Karanjmal, Bhadrak district, Odisha

For three years, Suposhan Sangini Suchitra’s family had to suffer many losses in their farming activities due to climate disturbances. Feeding six people was very challenging and hence, he expressed interest towards other CSR activities of Adani Foundation. Under the aegis of the Foundation’s Sustainable Livelihood Development Initiative and Odisha Livelihood Mission, he inspired 80 villages

Women will form a productive group for mushroom cultivation and snack making. This group was trained, and this marked the beginning of self-reliance. These women can earn from INR 3,000 to 4,000 per month. Suchitra was instrumental in dealing with the resistance women of her own family had to face. She actively works towards village development works and is an example for many other women to push their limits with confidence in their abilities. According to village PRI members and many women in the village, Suchitra is the first contact person in her village when there is a problem or crisis. It is no surprise that she is known as the “Super Sangini” of the village.

First published:March 8, 2022, 8:01 pm

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