Gender sensitisation does the trick here

A ward for women has been built in a primary health centre without govt help

Gender sensitisation does the trick here

The people of Etava, the nondescript village, have just proved that nothing is insurmountable provided there is a will to achieve the target. Due to the community efforts, the panch­ayat now has a well-equipped women’s ward in a primary health centre (PHC) without any government help to cater to the health needs of women. It is said to be only one of its kind in Rajasthan built with the community initiative.

The Etava village panchayat under Govindgarh block is about 42 km from Jaipur. It has a population of about 10,000. It has only one PHC and 11 anga­nwadi centres to meet the healthcare needs of the people. One of the major health issues was the poor health services provided at the PHC due to lack of basic infrastructure.

Young woman sarpanch Mamata Barala acted as a catalyst with her active
involvement in addressing the health problems of the villagers, especially women. Getting sensitised and encouraged by panchayats efforts, families started approaching the PHC for deliveries. However, the problem was Etava panch­ayat had only one common ward for male and female. It was a major irritant for women to approach the PHC.

Mamata Barala recalled an incident: “During one family planning camp, electricity went off and women were made to lie in the open on the ground. There was no boundary wall for the PHC, which is located just opposite a general bus stand and tea stall. This created a huge embarrassment for women and it turned out to be a trigger for the panchayat to take up the issue of setting up of a separate mate­rnity ward for women”.

Under the project Strengthen Gender Response of Panchayat in Rajasthan (SGRPR) of UNFPA, the standing committee on social justice and social welfare (SJSWC) of the panchayat has been capa­citated to execute key issues like health, sanitation and welfare of weaker sections in the panchayat. Due to the continuous efforts of NGO PRIA, the gram panchayat members, including the sarpanch, were sensitised and empowered to provide quality health services, especially for girls and women.

The continuous engagement with various stake holders at the panchayat level prompted them to take up gender sensitive actions.

SJSWC headed by Kishan Singh and Babulal played a key role in  improving the health services by raising the women health issues in village panchayats and gram sabha meetings. They also started regularly monitoring and supervising the work of the anganwadi centres and the PHC.

Through intense mobilisation, the community also started raising the dema­nd for quality health services. One of the main demands of the women of the panchayat was a separate maternity ward at the PHC. But unfortunately in Rajasthan there is no provision for separate wards for male and female at the PHC level. This issue was highlighted at various meetings with the community but no solution was in sight.

The gender-sensitive village panchayat was very concerned about the issue but did not have funds under government schemes or have its own resources. After extensive deliberations, the members decided to mobilise funds from private donors. The panchayat body, on its own efforts, approached some private donors and community leaders to donate for a maternity ward while some money was mobilised from local MLA and MP local area development fund. The panchayat was thus able to mobilise enough funds for the construction of the maternity ward.

An eight-bed maternity ward had been constructed at Etava PHC now. A boundary wall has also been constructed around it for ensuring safety and privacy to patients, especially women. The panchayat then started focusing on generating more funds through public contributions to improve the facilities in the newly constructed female ward.

Nishu Kaul, who is working as a progr­amme officer at PRIA, Jaipur, says once the villagers are convinced of the cause they will leave no stone unturned to achieve the goal. They are ready to put in all efforts.

Dr Kailash Kumawat, head of the PHC at Etava, played a pivotal role in encouraging the villagers in their initiative to be self-reliant. Kumawat also gets active support from the local government to deliver quality service in time.  This initiative developed a sense of ownership among the panchayat members to impr­ove services and, in turn, provide suppo­rtive role to the health department.

Dr Kumawat gives credit to the NGOs working in the area for creating gender sensitisation for the success.

This awareness has been brought about in a very conservative male-dominated society due to the efforts of the non-government organisations, he says. A participatory health plan has also been developed by the village panchayat invo­lving all stakeholders. Ward councillors, gram sabha members, panchayat secretary and other health functionaries (ANM, ASHA) hold a joint constructive meeting and such instances are very few and far between.

Some components in this plan reflect the gender responsive planning. It incl­udes separate toilets for girls in schools (lack of toilets in schools is said to be one of the major reasons for the large dropout of adolescent girls), the PHC and  bus stand under the total sanitation campaign, cleanliness and construction of drainage and regular water and electricity supply to anganwadi centres and sub-centre from the village united fund.

This panchayat has proved that if there is a will there is a way.

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