At a time when maternal and child health has been pushed at the back end with all healthcare resources of the country focused on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of community mobilizer to assist in sensitization, pregnant women and new mothers have been highly vulnerable. Most women have been reluctant to go for their antenatal and post natal check-ups to avoid risk of being infected by the virus many are also skeptic of going in for institutional deliveries. The scenario is worst case for women from urban slums and remote villages who can only afford government hospitals where the already overburdened staff and inadequate infrastructure has been further strained by the pandemic.
In this grim scenario, one woman from Gurugram, Haryana has been working relentlessly to ensure that pregnant women and new mothers are not alone in these trying times. Savita has been working as a community mobilizer for creating awareness and linking community with government health services under Smile Foundation’s Swabhiman programme in a Gurugram slum cluster from the last three and a half years. She is someone who has never compromised on her work despite a life full of challenges.
Two years back, Savita’s husband was diagnosed with a tumorous growth in his spine and had to quit his job. Within few months her husband became bedridden and Savita had to shoulder the responsibility of the entire household starting from finances, daily household chores, children’s studies, and taking care of her husband. Her regular routine now included taking her husband to different medical centres in different cities for consultation and treatment. Her savings were diminishing with each passing day. But even this did not deter Savita from her role of a community mobilizer. She would manage her time; constantly follow up with the community women, especially the pregnant women and lactating mothers, over phone to make sure they are getting the required check-ups and vaccines on time.
In March 2020 amid Covid-19 outbreak, Savita’s husband came home after a long hospitalization, but he still needs constant care and support. In Swabhiman, we had to hault our on-ground activities due to the lockdown and necessity of social distancing. However, Savita realized how critical her role had become to create awareness, clear doubts and provide her support to the community. Ever since, she has been interacting with the community people telephonically – informing them about basic preventive measures required like maintaining hygiene and how to prepare cotton masks at home, etc.
Her focus on pregnant women and new lactating mothers became even more committed. She would call the pregnant ladies in their last trimester and help them understand any labour symptoms, dispel their fears about going to the hospital for delivery and encourage them to be positive in the difficult external environment. Her involvement and guidance helped six women get an ambulance in time and give birth through institutional delivery, ensuring proper care for the mother and the child. This way she helped twelve lives, the mothers as well as the children. She continues to counsel these new mothers now on healthy eating, breastfeeding, and immunization of the newborns.
“These women and their husbands are mostly daily wagers. Many lost their jobs during the pandemic. Expecting mothers need good nutrition for themselves and the babies, but when there is no food at home, how can they manage? It has been a difficult time for families who have lost livelihood and this has negative impact on health of pregnant women. Also, there is mental stress. Many of have moved to the city for work but their families are back home; they do not have emotional support that is needed during this time. I try my best to talk to them, understand their problems and provide solutions. Also through Swabhiman programme, we conduct awareness sessions, health camps and build a community of women who can support each other”, shares Savita.
Savita apart from being a community mobilizer is still managing her family’s expenses from hand to mouth but by standing strong with the community and especially the pregnant women, in this time of crisis, she has displayed the kind of humanity and solidarity that gives us hope that by helping each other we can get through the biggest challenges.
To know more about Women empowerment programme of Smile Foundation visit https://www.smilefoundationindia.org/swabhiman.html