Urban Mothers Are Becoming ‘Buddies’ To Guide Pregnant Women In Rural Bihar
December 4th, 2016
This NGO is working towards finding soon-to-be mothers in rural Bihar, a ‘buddy’ mum from the city. Seva Setu, a Patna-based NGO is enlisting urban mothers to guide their rural counterparts, for a safe pregnancy and childbirth.
Sushma Kumari, from Bilanpur village in Bihar’s Vaishali district, was expecting her first child. She was not aware of the various processes that are typical of ante-natal health care. Her husband, who is undergoing skill training at a local vocational training school, was not aware of any particulars either. They were unaware that their nearest Primary Healthcare Center (PHC) provided free, routine check-ups; that it was essential to get tests done for Rhesus factor and haemoglobin levels; and that a series of vaccines against tetanus toxoid (TT) were necessary before the third trimester.
The problem – an information overload for young mothers
Maternal health care, involving both ante and postnatal care, remains a mystery to most women from rural India. It is overwhelming for them to stay on top of the multiple processes they are expected to follow. Personalised counselling and following up doesn’t exist in our villages, making these topics difficult to understand and often putting families and the newborns at significant risk. Only a few people ask their doctors for more information and take the time to decipher the abundance of information.
In spite of the ambitious Village Health, Nutrition and Sanitation Days conducted every month, where a doctor visits each village, mothers do not receive personalised care and guidance. The situation is akin to a crowded classroom; wherein the teacher does not have the resources to pay attention to every child’s needs and requests. These are the reasons why young mothers from rural India continue to ignore taking essential steps towards safe motherhood.
Seva Setu felt that this is a critical knowledge gap that needs addressing. They noticed that currently, a lot depends on the doctors providing the right information promptly. If mothers were kept informed of the required processes through other means, they would then know what to expect from each of their doctor appointments.
This resulted in the inception of the Each One Reach One program. It is an elegant program where a person from the city becomes a “buddy” to one mother in rural India. Any woman, preferably who has had a child, is eligible to be a buddy. By having a conversation for roughly an hour a month, the urban, more experienced mothers can hand hold young rural mothers into a safe, healthy motherhood and can monitor their general health.
This urban mother, dubbed a call champion, calls her peer as per a schedule allotted to her. The plan accommodates both pre and post natal care. Over a phone call, she
- inquires about the mother’s health
- informs her of steps relevant to that period
The call champion also checks whether previous advice provided was fruitful and implemented correctly. In the case of any issues, she informs one of Seva Setu’s volunteers. Seva Setu then sends over a field executive to speak to the mother and helps resolve the issue. An advanced web-based software engine manages the phone calls and informs call champions of their next phone call over SMS and email. It takes less than a minute to register on their web page and become a call champion!
Sushma Kumari today has clarity on all the steps required for a safe delivery. She no longer feels uneasy about the process. Equipped with a sense of confidence, she has in fact taken it onto herself to hand-hold her neighbours and friends through their pregnancies.
Likewise, Pinki Devi from Pachai Mahesh village in Vaishali district was excited to know from her call champion that she was entitled to Rs 1,400 as part of the Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana. However, she did not have a bank account for the benefits to reach her. Seva Setu saw this problem highlighted by the call champion in the weekly report. Their team immediately got in touch with Pinki Devi and opened an account at a bank closest to her. Delighted to receive the benefits, Pinky treated the volunteers with sweets. For the volunteers, her happiness was the beat part.
The Each One, Reach One program has successfully served over a thousand mothers in rural Bihar. Over last three years, close to 60 call champions have had over 30,000+ minutes of conversations.
Many of the women only hear of the steps they need to take for a safe pregnancy the first time through their call champions.
They’re also surprised at the number of government schemes and facilities available to them.
But, not every experience is as pleasant. Suman Devi (name changed) from Bhatta Dasi village in the district of Vaishali was pregnant and aware of every step she needed to take to ensure a safe childbirth. However, she faced severe criticism from her husband and in-laws. They failed to see how following any of these steps would help her.
Bound by superstition, they believed that getting the mother weighed and her blood tested would harm her health. Helpless, the call champion informed Seva Setu. It was an uphill task for the field team to reason with the family and convince them of the benefits. On persistent counselling, they finally agreed to go through all the necessary medical steps. They were later happy that all had gone well and their daughter had a safe delivery.
All this is made possible by simple use of technology. Gangajali, one of the first call champions, while speaking with The Logical Indian said, “I feel great to be part of this initiative. It is not just calling up. It is building relationships with these women who are in the remotest areas. I spoke with some of the beneficiaries after a long time. They were happy that they could receive all the help which led to a better and safer pregnancy for them. All thanks to this program. Field volunteers look into the feedback of the call champions. They make sure that all the scans, medicines, and facilities are available to the rural mothers. They regularly follow up ensure that there are no gaps in the care.”
About Seva Setu
Seva Setu aims to bridge the gap between existing government policies, facilities and infrastructure, and the people. They want to “enable every Indian to assert his/her fundamental rights and to avail the benefits of government schemes that guarantee these rights“. They are currently operational in multiple districts of Bihar.
Seva Setu is also in need of people with varying skill-sets like graphic designing, digitisation of the field data, policy-level research, web design and more. For such skill-based volunteering, please write to [email protected] with your details.
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