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Empowered animators help bring positive change in Guna

By Anil Gulati

Guna, Madhya Pradesh :  Two years ago, Basanti Pant was just another housewife in Piproda village of the Guna development block, Guna district, Madhya Pradesh. Today she is an ASHA worker (Accredited Social Health Activist) under the National Rural Health Mission. As a village level volunteer for Piproda, she is involved in community mobilization through inter-personal communication.

She has been part of a team of animators and village motivators who have acted as ‘agents for behavior change’ under a UNICEF supported intervention in the district.  Basanti works with a non governmental organization Shivangi Education and Rural Development Society, which with support from UNICEF and district administration, is implementing an integrated village planning and behavior change communication project in the Guna and Bamori blocks of the district.

Sharing her experiences, Basanti said that initially there was stiff resistance from many villagers when she went for the door-to-door survey and to share the importance of breast feeding, hand washing, sending girls to school, HIV/AIDS, birth registration and institutional delivery.

Many mothers-in-law did not like her “advising” their daughters-in-law. They would bluntly tell her to mind her own business. At times, she said, the villagers even doubted her motives. Gradually as the process of engaging villagers gathered pace, the ice was broken and mutual trust generated - so essential to ensure smooth communication with the village community.

“I belong to the same panchayat, so it was not just one meeting, but rather a continuous dialogue and interaction with them, both formal and informal, which helped in the process” she adds. “The rest is history”, she says with an air of rustic wisdom.

Today villagers rely on her advice and she is now empowering other women in her area with right knowledge for care of women and children and helping them to take advantage of various government initiatives and programs targeted at them.
 
Moving away from the Guna district headquarters and talking to women from villages like Sirsi, Dhanwadi, Kherikhata, Rehpura, and Kalechari, constituting a tribal belt dominated by the Bhilala, Patelia and Barela tribes, one could observe that they’ve developed a fair understanding of the importance of breast and complimentary feeding of new born infants.

Some of the animators like Jamla Patelia of  Kalechari Panchayat, and Rupa Barela of Dhanwadi are very popular in their villages. Rupa Berala does not like to harp on the significant role she has played as an animator but the people from her village are happy to relate how she once traveled a long distance to get a child suffering from severe malnutrition admitted into the Nutritional Rehabilitation Centre, which helped the child to recover.
 
Hamid El Bashir, State Representative for UNICEF in Madhya Pradesh said that due to regular engagement with families and communities in the last few years, more births have been registered, more children immunized and the number of women opting for hospital delivery has gone up in Guna district, which was a positive development that ultimately benefited children and women in the district.

 

 
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