Hafeezan: The Community Health Volunteer
Hafeezan can be found chewing elaichi (cardamom) and sparkling with confidence and conviction. She loves to offer elaichi to everyone she meets. When asked why she carries it with her, she replies, “It was very hard to quit bidi (cigarette), but my new role demanded it.”
Hafeezan, 56, is a mother of seven children and lives in Notki village in the district of Mewat, Haryana. She volunteers with the rural health program. Health services in the region are poorly utilized, largely due to lack of awareness of the system. “I wanted to do full justice to my job and practice what we preach. As a community health volunteer, I have to provide information and education to the community regarding Reproductive and Child Health (RCH), hygiene & sanitation, and various diseases etc., especially to women.”
In 2006, Sehgal Foundation began working in Notki. Hafzeen was selected then to work as one of the village health volunteers. She had never stepped out of her village before, but committed to joining the army of foot soldiers dedicated to working on issues of health. She enjoys her work thoroughly and says that distributing information to those who need it is enriching and brushes up her own knowledge on the subject. As part of her duties, she has travelled to Jhansi, Alwar, Delhi, and Faridabad to participate in health melas (fairs).
Hafazeen is very sensitive towards women and child health issues as her mother died 8 days after giving birth to her fourth child. Her mother’s death could have been prevented by access to adequate medical facilities. “Now the facilities are available, we just need to fully utilize them by being aware,” says Hafeezan. In her health sessions with the community, she explains that small families, good education, timely immunizations and nutrition can greatly improve the health and wellbeing of families.
When Hafeezan was a health trainee, she had to deal with a serious medical incident. Jamsheeda was in the final stages of her pregnancy, but had been complaining of shooting pains for over a week. Her family told her to bear the pain, as they could not afford the expense of transporting her to the nearest hospital. In training sessions, Hafeezan had learned about warning signs in pregnancy. These warning signs indicated when medical attention was imperative. After visiting Jamsheeda, Hafeezan knew the village “Dai” (traditional birth attendant) could not manage the case. Jamsheeda needed to go to hospital.
Hafeezan had learned about the government program “Janani Surakhsa Yojana” (Safe Motherhood program). In the face of complications, the program makes the panchayat (village council) responsible for transporting an expectant mother to the nearest medical facility. Hafeezan rushed to the Sarpanch (village council head) and explained Jamsheeda’s situation. Jamsheeda was quickly taken to the Mandikhera district hospital where she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Both mother and child were reported out of danger. The family regards Hafeezan’s timely intervention as a lifesaver.
Today, Hafeezan is a confident health volunteer. The local women come to her to discuss their health related issues. Hafeezan is kept inspired by the ideal of a clean village, free from diseases. “Villagers now take initiative. They come up to me and ask about medical check ups. I feel happy that my efforts have brought about awareness and sensitization,” she smiled and added, “This is what I call behavior change and development.”
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