It has been almost 8 months since Imrana, our Administrative Manager joined the team. She has been a key member of our team offering help and support to the health, education and construction teams, looking after administration of offices and taking care of interns, guests and team members. In this blog she talks about her work and her experiences at Hunar Ghar.
Plans of solar kitchen placement
It’s not only Teddy that’s been having a good week. Yesterday Neha, Vishnu Priya and Shantilal went with 19 women from the village – as many people as can be crammed into a jeep! – to visit a Self Help Group in a nearby village. I’ve not spoken to Neha yet, but I gather that they met two women there who talked for a long time about their experiences with the SHG, and it really helped some of the women finally GET what these woman’s groups are about, or can be. Hopefully we’ll see this convert into higher motivation, or interest, or movement within the women’s groups.
Not all the women were interested in what these other women had to say – a few of the younger women from Bakhel were pretty bored, which leads Neha to think that perhaps splitting the group into two by age may be a good idea. In any case, there was lots of information and opinion flowing, it was great for our group to go on a bit of a team trip and I’m sure it will have given lots of food for thought.
For the past week, I had been planning the agenda for our first official women’s group meeting and getting all of the supplies ready. I had calculated (optimistically, I thought) for 30 women to attend, and made bags and activity books for that number. I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday going from house to house personally delivering invitations to women in the three closest hamlets, telling them that the meeting started at 12 on Monday.
By 12:15 on Monday, the first three women had showed up, and by the time I started the meeting at 1:00, there were 45 women, many sitting with their children. I was shocked by the number, and extremely excited!
I had planned to play an active game involving holding hands and moving around as an icebreaker. Unfortunately, the room was too small, and I forgot that women with babies in their arms cannot really move around. Instead, we played a simple name toss game with a ball of yarn, and moved in to our discussion. We talked, assisted by pictures and a tower-building game, about the role of women in Bakhel and their importance in the community. We then talked about all of the different ways that their role connects to the health of the community through two short stories. Then we talked about the power of working together, and watched a short little video on collective action. The goal was for everyone to make a little potted coriander plant to bring home, but after the video, the babies were beginning to get antsy, and it was already 2:30, so we ended the meeting. All of the women received a cloth bag, and 30 received their activity books, and we explained that they should bring these bags and books to each meeting. They all seemed pretty excited to return for the next meeting, which we set for the same time in two weeks.
The meeting did not go quite according to plan, but it was definitely an awesome first step! I will be spending some time now visiting each of the women who attended. I want to find out how they felt about the meeting, what they would like to see changed for the next meeting, and also to encourage them to come back for the next one. I also need to determine how I can split up this group, since it is basically impossible for everyone to participate equally in a group of 45.
It’s been a long time since my last post, so first a quick update- the first month and a half was mainly an adjustment period for me: getting used to speaking Hindi full time, starting to learn the local language, and moving in with my amazing host family in Bakhel. I began a few small projects, but my main goal was to get to know the Bakhel community. I was trying to learn as much as I could about life in Bakhel and spent most of my time visiting people’s homes, chatting and helping with housework and fieldwork when I could. After learning about the shocking number of health issues and recent deaths in Bakhel, I decided to focus the future women’s groups on maternal and child health.
Since we’ve all returned from Diwali break, things have been picking up speed and some exciting new health initiatives are happening here! The weekend of November 12, Deepak and I went to Mount Abu to visit Steven, an administrator at the Global Hospital. The Global Hospital is an international-standard hospital run by Brahma Kumaris, and does a great deal of community outreach work in the area. Steven and Deepak had been talking for a long time about having the Global Hospital work with Hunar Ghar, and finally, their plans came to fruition. We were able to meet with the director of the hospital as well as the coordinator for their community mobile clinic. They decided to visit Bakhel to do a preliminary health assessment the following Friday (Nov 18)
We tried to make their visit into a big health kick-off event, signifying the start of work with the Brahma Kumaris (BK) and the introduction of the women’s health groups. Deepak, Gopal, Vishnupriya and I spent the week going on home-visits all over Bakhel, telling people about the event. Some of the teachers also conducted surveys to give the BKs some baseline information about Bakhel. While the event did not go quite as planned, some promising things came out of it.
The BK team arrived in their van sharply at 10 am, but unfortunately, Bakhel residents did not. People from Bakhel slowly began to trickle in around 11:30, but since the team had to leave by 12:00, they were only able to speak to a handful of people. There was also some confusion- although we were as clear as we could be when advertising, most community members associate a doctor’s visit with medicine, but the BK team had come to do an assessment, not to treat.
The team did get some information about common diseases in the area, and gave some useful health advice. They also visited all the classrooms, and since it was a school day, they saw Hunar Ghar in action. The great news is that they have agreed to come back in December to run a full day health clinic, with thorough check-ups and treatment provided! We are hoping that the clinic can become a regular monthly event, but that is something that we are still discussing with the BKs.
As the van was leaving, many more people arrived and the majority were women. After everyone ate, the male teachers explained the situation to the male community members, and Vishnupriya and I ran the first introductory women’s group meeting. We held two short sessions for ten women each, where we played some games and then explained the benefits of good health through a picture story. The women were giggling and shy during the games, but everyone seemed interested in the health story and said they would be happy to come to a women’s health meeting next week. I am still thinking of ways to maintain the women’s interest and motivation as I publicize next week’s meeting, but it was definitely an awesome start to the women’s group project. Hopefully in the coming months, we will establish a few solid women’s health groups, and begin working together to address what the women describe as their most pressing health issues.