New Delhi: “The trust my village people have in me, today, is one of my biggest and most celebrated achievements,” says Kali Shohe, a graduate from Nagaland’s Dimapur town, who has been working as an Anganwadi worker for the last 12 years.
Kali Shohe always wanted to be an Anganwadi worker and do something for her village people. She knew the struggles the villagers face on a day-to-day basis and always wanted to help them out. Ms Shohe said,
So, after I completed my graduation, I joined as an Anganwadi worker. I have always seen people of my village struggling TO access the basic healthcare. Good health is every individual’s basic right. I saw, expecting mothers struggling to understand the very basics of breastfeeding, how to deliver a healthy baby or simply how to take care of one after the delivery. Children struggling to gain weight or eat a healthy meal. It wasn’t like they didn’t have means, I realised, education and awareness were their biggest challenge. And that’s when I decided to help them out.
Explaining her work as an Anganwadi worker and her responsibilities, Ms Shohe said that Anganwadi Di has a very critical role to play and is responsible for village’s healthy lifestyle and overall health. She added,
I reach the centre every day at around 8 am. The very first thing I do as soon as I reach the centre is to clean it up, so, it is ready for the children. At the centre, we give children very basic education, teach them about health and hygiene, how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, make them understand the importance of cleanliness, washing hands, healthy habits and eating nutritious meals. Because, children come here on a daily basis, today they know the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, as a healthy habit they wash their hands daily before coming to the centre, before eating and after their meals and after using the toilet. This is a very huge deal, as even in Urban areas, people refrain themselves from washing hands and we all know how deadly and dangerous this can be.
Kali Shohe further explaining her duties as an Anganwadi worker said that she is not just responsible for the health of children but also the expecting mothers of the village. She added,
This is one of the most important tasks, I feel. I have to go door-to-door to educate women about pregnancy, what kind of care they should get, what kind of food they should eat and what should they expect in different trimesters. Earlier, the infant and maternal mortality rate here was very high as many women didn’t understand the need of the basic healthcare that expecting mothers should get. They felt, their mother-In-laws or other elder women know it all and used to deliver the babies at home and do as they say. They didn’t understand the concept of going to hospitals for the delivery. As a result, there was a huge risk involved and many a times due to complications babies or mothers used to die. And that’s where I come in, my task is to teach, educate, expecting mothers about all the risks involved in the pregnancy, care they need and why they should opt for institutional deliveries over home delivery. Not just mothers, sometimes, I also have to convince their whole family. For people living in cities, it is a very normal phenomenon to go to the hospital, but for villagers it is very different. There are many superstitions, beliefs attached, even today – and my job is to bust all the myths and educate these villagers.
When asked about the challenges she faced in her journey as an Anganwadi worker, Kali Shohe added,
There are a lot of challenges involved. For us, every day is new. One of the biggest challenges I have been facing is the fact that I have to go door-to-door, to bridge the gap between the villagers and access to healthcare. And to do so, I have to walk miles and miles, there is no availability of vehicles, so to educate people around my village about lactation, guidance on maternal healthcare, provide first aid to people in need, check on children for malnutrition related issues, I have to just rely on my legs and walk a lot. Sometimes, in one day, I have to cover two directions, which takes a lot of time, and it is physically and mentally very tiring.
Kali Shohe also added that communication is also one of the challenges, she said that it is not a piece of cake to make beneficiaries understand about healthcare access and schemes. She said,
Not everyone is welcoming, not everyone wants to listen to you. Initially, when I had joined, I faced a lot of rejection from people, they thought I was just blabbering for my own good, never understood that I was there for their welfare and health. Slowly, over time, when they see me visiting them every now and them and for their own good, they started trusting me and started taking my counselling on health, education, and hygiene in a serious way.
Recalling one of the incidences when she felt really proud of her work, Kali Shohe added,
There are many examples, but one is very close to my heart. I remember visiting one of the families in my village, who had just delivered the baby. When I visited the mother, I realised, the baby is weaker than under normal circumstances. I informed the mother that she should take the baby to the hospital, but she said the baby will be fine in a few days and it is because she is also very weak. On my insistence, she took the baby to the hospital and realised that the baby was underweight and was struggling for life. She felt grateful that she the hospital in time and also because she was clueless on what she should be doing to reverse the signs of undernutrition. Then I guided her on foods she should take and give her baby as well, and why she should breastfeed her baby more and more and not give any other food items and water. She understood and followed the routine rigorously and started seeing good results.
Today, Kali Shohe is a well-known name in her village, she is fondly called as ‘Anganwadi Di’. Her family is also very supportive of the kind of work she is doing, she adds, “My parents, four sisters and a brother are very excited for me. They feel extremely proud when someone in my village says that because of me today they are living a healthy life or someone comes and drops sweets as their daughter-in-law, wife or sister delivered a healthy baby.”
Talking about COVID-19 and how difficult that time-period was, Kali Shohe added,
COVID brought with it a lot of uncertainty. There was a risk of life, but we couldn’t back out at that time. I remember walking door-to-door with a backpack of ration as at that time centre was closed and all the villagers depended on receiving the take-home ration at their doorstep. Next was the vaccination phase, I saw people dreading to go to the vaccine centre, they thought they will die if they will receive the vaccine. To make them understand that vaccines are important and they should take it as soon as possible wasn’t a very easy task. Day after day, we used to go to their house, just to convince them to take the vaccine. It took a lot of time and energy to educate the people about the importance of vaccine and why they should take it.
Kali Shohe concluded by saying, “Overcoming these daily challenges has been a part of my life, something, which I really look forward to and something, which I am proud of. I am very happy to be serving my people.”
About ASHA Workers
ASHA (which means hope in Hindi) is an acronym for Accredited Social Health Activist. ASHAs are the grassroot health workers assisting the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in delivering primary healthcare, particularly for women and children, in both rural and urban areas since 2005. There are over 10 lakh ASHA workers in the country. In May 2022, the World Health Organisation’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus honoured ASHA workers for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system, to ensure those living in rural poverty can access primary health care services, as shown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. India’s ASHAs are among the six recipients of the WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Award. The award ceremony was part of the live-streamed high-level opening session of the 75th World Health Assembly.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. 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 will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that 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 the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.[corona_data_new]