Women's Health Programs
February 2007 Dalit Women Power started to develop a health program. We spent time with DWP staff discussing what the greatest needs were in terms of health care. We also met with a few other NGOs and a few doctors and nurses.
We then lead a five day training course for 20 women on basic health care: how to detect diseases, how to treat them, how to prevent them, when to go to the doctor. The women were very happy to be in ‘school’ for a few days. Most of them are illiterate, and have never had the luxury of going to school or of someone explaining things to them and expecting them to understand. We had many lively discussions and also spend a couple of afternoons making home remedies. There was a great interest in family planning and women’s health. The women were eager to learn about contraceptives (many of them had never seen a condom) and how to prevent common illnesses, such as prolapsed uterus.
On the sixth day of our training program we did a train-the-trainer day where the women learned how to teach the things they learned to the other women in their village groups.
And we also discussed how we will now build on this program. We are planning to offer subsidized contraceptives in the villages as well as vitamins and iron pills for pregnant women. This way, the women do not need to go to the pharmacy and are at the same time educated by their peers about health care and how to take the medicine.
Unfortunately, the women of DWP have in many ways been cheated by modernity: they have forgotten much of their traditional knowledge – for example many house remedies have been lost or are considered ‘backwards’ but modern medicine is, because of financial but also social reasons, out of reach for these Dalits. All too often they are cheated by local ‘doctors’ or are forced to pay a fortune for treatment of illnesses that would have been easily preventable.
Tuberculosis, STDs, and polio are still very common, and although government programs are supposed to be in place, they are often non-functioning, corrupt (demand bribes) or of very poor quality. We are therefore planning a vaccination program for the children in the very remote villages. Government programs often don’t reach those places and also, the people there are afraid to have their kids immunized because no one ever bothered to explain to them how vaccines work and why they are important. DWP village leaders will now first go into these villages, educate the mothers about immunization and then a nurse will visit the places with the vaccines.