TCIHC Urban Tale: ASHA Helps Woman Move Beyond Just Surviving to Live Life to the Fullest
Contributors: Indra Bhushan Srivastava and Parul Saxena
Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) are empowering women like Rani Burman living in Madhya Pradesh, India, to seek a better tomorrow.
The Challenge Initiative for Healthy Cities (TCIHC) supports local governments in Indian states like Madhya Pradesh to strengthen the capacity of urban ASHAs to provide quality family planning counseling and referrals to meet the needs of women like Rani.
The following is part of a series from TCIHC called “Urban Tales,” which are occasional real-life stories of women and girls benefiting from TCIHC’s work supporting local governments to implement evidence-based family planning and adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) solutions.
I was flying on my new scooty; my dreams were turning into reality. Life was a Bliss! All thanks to Pooja Didi. Yet I clearly remember the day when Pooja Didi first visited me. I was eating only rice. She had asked, ‘Why are you eating only rice? You have small children; you must eat a healthy and balanced diet.’ My eyes had welled up and she sat there quietly. Once I felt better, I shared that ever since the birth of my second daughter financial hardships increased for us. My husband and in-laws wanted a male child so my husband did not spare money for us; instead, he spends most of his earnings on alcohol. Today I at least had rice to eat. Pooja Didi comforted me and left with a promise to return.”
From that day, she would visit me often, sometimes to give iron-folic tablets or to immunize my children or to just inquire about my health. One day, she cited her example and encouraged me to work and earn for the family. I told her that I had completed my secondary education but my husband does not like the idea of my working outside of the house. Didi jolted me to think of making a change in the drudgery of my life. One afternoon, when Didi came, my husband was home. She checked about children’s health and started a conversation around the importance of family planning and also prodded upon the idea of my working outside of the house. She reasoned without fear that these two decisions will only make life better for us. My husband was moved. A few days later, I asked my husband if I could look for a job. To my surprise, he gave his nod. I soon found one and gradually found a better one as a receptionist at a hospital. Pooja Didi was elated!”
Financial independence boosted my confidence. I started expressing myself. I told my husband that I know that the family desires to have a male heir but given that we already have two daughters and our income is also not sufficient to support this current family of six members including his parents. Thus, we must do something about family planning as we cannot bear the cost of upbringing one more child. My husband approved and asked me to inquire all about family planning from ASHA Didi. Next time, when Pooja Didi visited us, she explained all the family planning choices and clarified our doubts. We decided to adopt a permanent family planning method as we wanted to be free.”
These two decisions have changed my life. Not only am I free from the constant pressure of producing a male child but I have become independent too and also gained respect from my family and society. I am determined that my daughter will do advanced studies and become a doctor or a police officer. I have learnt not to fear life but to live life.”
To learn more about the impact of urban ASHAs and how to adopt or adapt this high-impact approach, check out Enabling Urban Accredited Social Health Activists.