AWAJ - Health and Reproductive Well Being
The Women’s Movement in India has critically looked at the women’s health issues in the larger frame of development. It has challenged the state’s limited approach to women’s health care, which is only interested in population control, prenatal care and safe motherhood. The critique has pushed the policy makers and NGOs to look at women’s health care issues beyond medical care and work for the integrated development model, which includes the socio-cultural, economic and political growth as well. Each of these aspects has a deep influence on health, which in turn influences all these aspects. Hence, it is not possible to raise the health status and quality of life of women unless the efforts are made to enhance the overall status of women in society and also challenge acts of human rights violation.
The health structures of family, society and state have ignored women for a long time. Gender indoctrination discourages women from paying attention to health needs of their body and forces them to remain silent about many of their gynecological or sexuality related problems reinforcing culture of silence. The image of good women is one who is confined to four walls, quiet, submissive and sacrificing. In Himachal Pradesh too, caught in the web of this “good women” image, they have moved away from their own body and mind. Commercialization and privatization of medical facilities is on the rise. Further, the traditional healing practices where women’s knowledge was important are slowly fading out.
For a long time, what escaped the attention of planners and practitioners of development was a very large group of women and adolescent girls who suffered multiple health problems and had no redressal mechanism to respond to their needs without any moral judgement. As a strong women’s organization, it is our assumption that in order to address the overall well being of women, the rural communities must be made more capable and proactive, especially women and young girls and women to demand their rights by engaging with the health delivery systems and demand health facilities including information and knowledge about their own bodies and well being.
In the last 10 years, JG has worked at multiple levels – on the one hand , there is a systematic effort to impart knowledge and information on women about their own bodies and well being needs, organise camps to investigate and treat women’s common ailments, affirm women’s traditional knowledge and train them in body literacy and physiological aspects, work with mid wives and improve their knowledge base, produce herbal home remedies and popularise them with rural communities.
So far JG has conducted a number of health surveys, regular training of midwives and healers as community health activists, evolved a body literacy curriculum and conducted 55 body literacy and reproductive health sessions with 5000 adolescent girls and boys from various government and non government schools , produced booklets on herbal healing plants for gynaecological ailments, menstruation and similar issues. In addition, have conducted a number of Women’s Wellbeing Weeks reaching out to over 1,200 women and referring over 100 women to local health institutions of the state. JG has also conducted a number of trainings and workshops. Two healing centres are being managed by local health activists trained by JG in remote villages to provide care and referrals to women. A very important part of the health work is conduct intensive campaigns in all the three blocks of the district to sensitise people on problems arising due to the practices of sex selective abortions..
In the last five years, in various Government Colleges for Girls, where about 5000 students study, teachers in collaboration with JG has organized a number of workshops, training sessions on issues of Gender Equality. JG has linked the issue of gender equality with issues related to violence against women including violence on their bodies.. Multiple methods are used including Workshops by gender experts from Jagori; Mass sensitization and pledge taking; Film screening and discussions; Street plays; Poster making; Creative writing – stories, poems and plays; Painting workshop and exhibition by eminent artists; Candle- light and silent marches; Developing and distributing printed material; Holding Youth Adalats where the students themselves are jury members.