I was sitting in the office and staring at my laptop screen for a long time. I had been reading innumerable articles since morning which gave me a slight headache. I badly needed a cup of tea but was feeling too lazy to get up and make one. I was just about to put my head down and take a power nap when my colleague, Ravi Ji, came to me and said, “Madam Ji, aaj Panr mein Mahila Mandal hai. Aap chalenge na?” His timing seemed perfect since a field visit amidst the monotonous day at work was all that I needed to regain my energy.
This was the second time we were organising a Mahila Mandal in Panr. I quickly asked Ravi Ji what he had planned for today’s meeting and mentally made a note of few things that I could add to make the meeting more interesting for the women. A Mahila Mandal is a good way to create community-wide awareness by engaging the women in discussions and activities. Our objective regarding organising Mahila Mandals is to enhance the community’s knowledge of maternal and newborn health (MNH) and mobilise them to support and monitor our interventions.
We reached the Anganwadi where the meeting was supposed to be held. The ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) had already gone out to call the women from their houses. Most women are usually reluctant to come and hence it takes quite a long time to assemble a good amount of people. The Anganwadi sevika welcomed me with a broad smile and said, “Aap chinta mat kijiye, kuch mahila jut jayenge. Unhe yaha kuch milta nahi hai na isiliye vo ekbaar bulane se aana nahi chahte.” I didn’t know to react to such a blatant and honest statement. I smiled back at her and quietly went and sat in the corner.
I could not stop thinking about what the Anganwadi sevika told me. Are we actually forcing the women to attend the Mahila Mandal’s? If yes, then how are we engaging them and what benefit will they get from these meetings? For our satisfaction, we can quantify that we could successfully organise these many numbers of Mahila Mandal’s in each ward. But won’t that be wrong on our part since the main purpose of organising these meetings gets defeated? If these women think that they are not gaining anything by coming here then the whole idea of interacting with them and creating awareness among them goes futile.
As I sat contemplating on this matter, I saw few women approaching the Anganwadi. Two of them came up to me and smiled. I could recognise one of them from the previous meeting. Her name was Kiran Devi. She introduced the other women as her sister-in-law who was visiting her for a few days. She told me that she really liked the first meeting and so she brought her sister-in-law along with her, this time, to show her what happens in the Mahila Mandal. I felt like hugging her at that point but all I could do was thank her for being so proactive and for showing interest in these meetings. I realised that I was worrying unnecessarily. It is natural for these women to be a bit hesitant or to show little interest at the beginning. Our work is to ensure that these meetings are engaging enough for the women, so that they voluntarily attend the Mahila Mandals. If we have full faith in what we are doing then we should worry less about the outcome. Though at times a little appreciation from the other side does give us a reassurance that we are on the right track.
To be continued…
(To know what happened during the Mahila Mandal, wait for my next blog. :D)