The fat cow covered the entire space which had to be crossed to reach Anu Devi’s house. The little gap which was there between the trees and the cow was full of ‘gobar’. Since the cow was clearly not in the mood to move an inch, I somehow had to jump over the piles of gobar to make sure I was not left behind. Luckily, my colleague and the Asha didi accompanying us were discussing something important and hence they did not see me struggle while crossing the ‘cow dung’ hurdle.
Under the MNH (maternal and neonatal healthcare) programme of Innovators In Health, we provide healthcare facilities to pregnant ladies and their newborn child. Along with this, regular counseling is done to ensure that these women get to know the dos and don’ts during pregnancy. So during our recent survey in Keota, we came across Anu Devi who was 9 months pregnant and whose expected date of delivery was someday in that week itself. We started asking her questions related to the number of checkups she had during her pregnancy. She stared at us blankly and then her eyes started searching for her mother. Her mother came out of their hut and told us that she had gone for only one checkup till now. (actually a minimum of 4 ANC ie. antenatal checkup should be done) Then we asked Anu Devi what all checkups did take place during her sole visit to the Angadwadi. She was again quite blank. I thought maybe she was feeling shy and hence not answering our questions. But even when the Asha didi asked her (who is well known to her), she still could not tell us properly. Her mother again intervened and told us that her daughter had received a TT (tetanus injection) and her weight was checked. More questions followed regarding medicines (iron and calcium tablets) which Anu Devi must have taken during her pregnancy. Her reply was that she has been having some ‘goli’ for the past few months but couldn’t tell us what those medicines were called and why was she taking them. Throughout our discussion with her, the only thing which she could actually tell us was that she was 9 months pregnant. We left her place after telling her that she should be well prepared for her delivery by keeping the ambulance/local car number handy and informing the Asha when her labor pain starts. As I walked out of her hut, I just could not wrap my head around the fact that Anu Devi was so unaware about her own health.
A woman should be extremely careful and cautious about her health especially during her pregnancy solely because it directly affects her unborn child. Rural women face a lot of challenge in this respect as most of them do not receive basic healthcare services. Some of the reasons for this could be lack of health centers in rural areas, difficulty in accessibility due to bad road conditions, poverty, inadequate number of health personnel and lack of equipment’s at health facilities. But I believe that illiteracy and ignorance are the major reasons why these rural women are still facing so much difficulty during their pregnancy. Like in the case of Anu Devi, because of her ignorance she did not avail the services which were available in her area. Maybe she thought that it wasn’t required because she didn’t face any complication during her 9 months of pregnancy. Another reason could be that she is unaware of the importance of the ANC’s or taking those medicines. And after talking to her, I feel it’s the latter. So, just making services available for such people are not the end in itself. One has to make sure that the beneficiaries know the importance of those services so that they come forward to avail it.
P.S. – While coming back, the cow was kind enough to get up and let me cross the road without any further struggle. 🙂