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Winning against polio with Razda Begum

© UNICEF/ 2008
CMC Razda Begum shares information with local influencer Maulana Farihmujeeh in Farukhabad district, Uttar Pradesh.

Sushmita Malaviya

Farukhabad: Razda Begum sits with her decorated white chart paper which has the Mohallah Sufi Khan in Farrukhabad mapped out with its masjids (mosques), public facilities, the “grids” within the area and the “influencers” who work for the polio eradication programme.

When she started her work as the community mobilization co-ordinator (CMC), the challenge was enormous – a large number of households refused immunisation for their children.

There was much to do. She was a little doubtful if she would be able to do much with her polio-affected leg (that could not bear much strain). Nevertheless she decided to give it a try – a good try.

After all she had been to the intermediate school on crutches. In 1997 she heard about surgeries being performed in Vishakhapatnam and went for it.

As a result she was able to give up her crutches. She also acquired a home science degree and completed a basic course in computers. That was no mean achievement for any girl of her background and means.

In February 2005 when CMCs were being identified in Farukhabad, she was approached by the Social Mobilization Network (SMNet) as she was one of the most qualified girls in the neighbourhood.

Razda recalls that she was scared to take up the assignment. She thought about it and decided to take it up as a challenge.

Three years later, Razda begum has come far from where she started. The refusal rates have declined dramatically from 18 families in 2005 to none and her area is free of polio.  The area is abuzz with polio-related activities – “polio classes” are held in local schools where she herself briefs children.

With the help of influencers like Maulana Shah Fazih Mujibi Metab Khan, her father and brother Alim, she has won over families who did not wish to immunise.

“When a family has doubts, I say they should not suffer the way I did. I tell parents that they are responsible for their children.” Living as a polio-affected person, she dreads the thought of other children getting polio. “No child should face what I have,” she says.

As Razda walks into houses during polio campaigns, families bring their children for vaccination. The people do not tire of praising her. Naseem and Rahat Bano say that Razda has often stopped to help the families with health-related concerns.

Her support to the people goes beyond polio. She has been able to get 99 per cent of the children in her area immunized under routine immunization.

“Her work has touched the lives of the people in such a way that everyone is glad that she is around doing what she does,” says Naseem.

As a mark of respect to her, the posters she puts up are rarely torn down by children. Maulana Farihmujeeh, a key influencer, says Razda works so hard that it is difficult for people in the community not to respond to her requests.

Gone are the days when Razda thought twice before walking. Recently, when not informed of a seven-kilometre walk held to create awareness about polio (it was thought she would not be able to walk the distance) she took exception to it.

A supportive family has made it possible for her to realise her dream of being educated and work for a cause.

Beaming with confidence, she is now setting her sights further and is keen to become a block mobilization coordinator (BMC). “If I have been able to do this much, I can do more,” she says. Who can say that she can not?

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