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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 June 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 JUNE 2016 7 NEWS VHW Rekha (far right) running an educational health session for the women in her village “I like showing people they can stand again” - Jabar, a volunteer for CRHP who makes artificial limbs as part of their Appropriate Technology services. PHOTO CREDIT: CRHP this is aligned with "a lot of superstition around pregnancy, menstruation and sexual health for women". And it is here, in the female sector of Jamkhed, that the CRHP relentlessly commits to empowerment. Its untiring pursuit towards gender equality is shown in the CRHP training and sustainability of their 51 Village Health Workers (VHW), local female village members who are the point of contact for health and welfare issues at a community level. They administer information about sanitation and nutrition, monitor things like blood pressure and sugar levels, deliver babies and monitor the nutrition and school attendance of village children. Selected by the communities themselves, VHWs are integral to Jamkhed because they are women who would otherwise not have been afforded the opportunity for employment due to widowhood, or the effects of poverty and the caste system. "Having female VHWs has a big impact on a village because it helps empower all the women. We see the VHWs demonstrate to community members how women can be leaders, and that women can be respected as experts in their field. It also helps break down the caste system," Kyrios reflects. However, even in the power- ful face of successive VHWs, in Jamkhed, and rural India alike, the progress of women's empowerment has been slow. Ultimately, superstitions around womanhood heavily impose on a VHW's ability to work. "I have heard stories about VHWs who have done all their health training and are sent back to their village to begin work, only to still be rejected. No one would touch them. No one would go near them - nothing. What would eventually have to happen for her to be accepted would be through years, no joking, years of observation – of seeing the VHWs children living healthy lives without malaria or disease etc. – it had to be through this observation that people would then approach her." In the face of ingrained behaviour, the CRHP's pursuit for gender equality reminds us that eradicating gender disparities (anywhere in the world) requires a shift in intergenerational behaviour and attitude; a process that relies on all members of the community. "All the programs here are long-term - they wouldn't run if they only had a shelf life of two or three years. With something like changing the role of women in society, which moves at a glacial pace globally (not just developing countries!) you need to have that multi-level, multi- age group and long-term approach which the CRHP has." And perhaps the most critical thing of all about the CRHP, and certainly what tied Kyrios to their cause, is their 40-years of success in taking the time to use local staff to empower local people; eradicating typical top down charity models. Educational sessions and health checkups are for locals, by locals, around what locals have said they want and what locals have expressed is a problem in their community, something that Kyrios regards as the most important aspect of their model of care. "If the CRHP disappeared tomorrow, this place would still run – and that's the important A local boy fetches water for household maintenance thing. In my previous experiences, I was quite uncomfortable with power dynamics in philanthropy, that real top down charity model. This is not how to work in a foreign community. It's not about me being a clinician for people – it's about me helping this community empower themselves so they are the clinicians, they are the teachers and they are the consumers of good health. “I am just here to liaise be- tween the community and the western bodies that bring the funding. But here, where those dynamics don't exist, the community trusts in us – they trust it's not all smoke and mirrors and white people’s bullshit."
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