Village Planning Initiative in Guna, Madhya Pradesh
By S. Sarkar & Anil Gulati
Village Dirouli, Guna, Madhya Pradesh, 10 March 2006 - Radhabai, her face partially hidden under a long veil, beams broadly as she shows the roughly hewn soak pit in front of her house. A pit has been dug at the base of the drain bringing out the wastewater from the house thus preventing the huge mess of slush that ran through the small village in Radhogarh block of Guna district in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Visible change in Dirouli village is the result of the Village Planning initiative of UNICEF and Government of Madhya Pradesh, which began in June 2005. The intervention aims not only to integrate and secure various developmental schemes, especially those concerning maternal and child health, sanitation, cleanliness and education and other services related to children and women, but ensures that the community initiates and owns the changes.
In Madhya Pradesh., two districts, Guna and Shivpuri have been selected for this unique collaborative effort. The method adopted is quite simple and based on the norms of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) system. With the help of local NGOs, social maps are prepared to assess the distribution of the available resources in the villages and areas identified where services such as hand pumps, anganwadis or health centres are needed. Household /family surveys are conducted to collect basic information about the village, communities and needs of children primarily in the areas of health, education, nutrition, drinking water and sanitation in addition to information on socio-economic conditions. These issues are then taken up as a basis for preparing village plans by the community groups for presentation and approval in a special Gram Sabha or a Village Meeting.
Apart from this, the village communities are given regular information about the various services available to them, mainly in health, education, nutrition and sanitation and encouraged to demand timely, effective and uninterrupted provision of these services. The villagers are also sensitized towards the importance and utility of the services like vaccination, birth certificates, institutional delivery, immediate and continuing breast feeding, nutritious food, regular health check-up, cleanliness, sanitation and education.
Sharmila is a young to-be-mother at village Dirouli, seven months pregnant. Her face shines with fine health and happiness of impending motherhood. This is to be her second child and she says that the major difference between her first and second pregnancy is that this time she has taken all the vaccines prescribed, popped all the iron tablets provided to her by the auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) and has decided that unlike her first child, the second child will be born in a hospital. Her mother-in-law Narbada agrees. ``Mamta (the animator of the village) has explained to us the importance of childbirth in hospital. I want my daughter-in-law and the child to be totally safe, '' she says. She also says that Sharmila will breast-feed the child right from the beginning and the milk of first three days will not be thrown out as was the practice earlier.
The conviction and determination of the villagers of Dirouli speaks volumes about their newfound belief in themselves and their ability to change and shape their own destiny.