- The infrastructure of Anganwadi Centres need to be improved: Ishrat Bano
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- Ms. Bano’s work has been recognised at the national level
New Delhi: Seven years ago, when Ishrat Bano applied for becoming an Anganwadi Worker, her aim was to volunteer in her free time towards the welfare of children and pregnant women in her community. Over the years she realised that she wanted to do more for them and her work as a foot soldier for the Department of Women and Child Development’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) became her passion. A resident of Jaipur, Rajasthan, 38-year-old Ishrat Bano has gained popularity as ‘Anganwadi Wali Baaji’ (Elder Sister from Anganwadi) for all the households of Idgah Kachchi Basti, a slum area in the city.
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Mother of two boys, Ishrat Bano is the sole breadwinner of her family of four. Because of a medical condition, her husband is unable to work. She said,
My husband is suffering from some infection in his hands because of which he stopped working long back. His treatment is still going on.
Ms. Bano gets Rs. 7,500 per month as the honorarium for her work at the Anganwadi centre. She said that she is hardly able to save anything at the end of the month and major part of her earnings are spent on childcare, her husband’s treatment, food and partly paying the rent of the Anganwadi centre.
I run the Anganwadi centre in a small room with a small kitchen. The monthly rent of this room is Rs. 2000 out of which only Rs. 750 is paid by the state government, rest of the Rs. 1,250 is paid out of my earnings. I don’t have any other choice because no other place is available for a lower rent, she told NDTV.
According to Ms. Bano, people living in Idgah slum have a hand-to-mouth existence. Their children are not healthy and many of them are undernourished. Thus, this Anganwadi centre is an important source of care, food and nutrition for the children of this slum. She said,
The Anganwadi Helper assigned to my centre is responsible for bringing children to the centre. We have never faced any issue in this regard. Most of the families living is this slum area are from other states like West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and are daily wage earners who work as domestic help or construction labour or rickshaw pullers. So, when both parents are out for work, they leave their younger children at my centre. Children enrolled in the Anganwadi centre get foodgrains as Take-Home Ration in lieu of the hot meal and supplementary nutrition item (a mixture of jaggery, peanuts and other foods) they used to get here. We will start the kitchen when we get a go ahead from officials.
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She has also organised food, clothes and books through donations by highlighting the needs of her community to people outside it.
Ms. Bano started a new initiative of assessing the performance of each child on the basis of what they learn at the Anganwadi centre and provide handwritten progress cards to the parents. The aim is to prepare children to get admission in good schools. According to her, every year at least 45-50 children enrolled at her centre get admission in government schools. She said,
My Anganwadi centre is the first to provide report cards to the parents because I want them to become competitive, get into good schools and have a bright future. Therefore, apart from providing them with food and nutrition, we focus on their education too. We conduct regular meetings with parents so that we can connect with families of each child and tell them what needs to be done to help improve their child’s learning and health.
Apart from this, Ms. Bano helps those in need by making them aware about various welfare and health related schemes and programmes of the state and central government. She and the ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) assigned to her centre also accompany patients to the hospital when they need medical attention.
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Acknowledging the dedication of Ms. Bano towards serving the children of her community, Dr. KK Pathak, Nodal Anganwadi officer of Rajasthan State government said,
We are glad to have committed people like Ishrat Bano in our workforce and it is because of their efforts that we have been able to improve our health and nutrition indicators. I am aware of the fact that they work in dismal conditions, but the department has been facing a lack of funds. We will be working towards improving their situation as soon as we get funds from the centre.
For Ruksana, a resident of Idgah slum, Ishrat Baaji (sister in Urdu) is no less than an angel. She said,
There has never been a time when my family and I needed help and Ishrat Baaji refused to help. She has put in a lot of efforts to build a community of parents who have become more aware of the ways to improve the wellbeing of their child. My children were also enrolled in her Anganwadi centre when they were little. She even helped me by motivating me to learn to make sweets and earn a livelihood.
Not only the people of Idgah, but also the National Women’s Commission has recognised her efforts and awarded her in a ceremony felicitating the frontline workers across the country.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.