TCIHC Urban Tales: ASHAs in Moradabad Help Dispel Myths with Young First-Time Parents
Contributors: Anupam Anand and Parul Saxena
The following story is part of a series from The Challenge Initiative for Healthy Cities (TCIHC) called “Urban Tales,” 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.
Anita works as an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) in the Asalatpura slum in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. One day during household visits, she noticed a short, thin, barefooted girl playing with a six-month-old baby near a sewage drain. Anita asked the young girl to call the mother of the baby. She was surprised when she found out the young girl named Rubina was in fact the mother of the child.
Anita visited Rubina’s cramped house where she lived with her husband Rashid and their child, along with four more families. Rubina told her that she got married at 16, has never been to school and works as a rag picker.
Rashid joined the conversation and Anita began counseling the couple on contraceptive methods, but Rubina interrupted her and said, “My Bhabhi (sister-in-law) has told me that I am too young for adopting any contraceptive method.” The couple had a strong belief that family planning is not for them as young first-time parents.
Anita was not surprised to hear this myth and was prepared to counsel Rubina and her husband on the benefits of contraceptives, especially given that Rubina is young and just experienced a labor and delivery six months earlier. Rubina described what Anita shared with her:
Anita didi used to bring pictorial leaflets to sometimes explain about personal hygiene, nutritious diet, breastfeeding, immunization, family planning, etc. She explained how a mother’s health affects a child’s health. This made us rethink our decision to adopt a family planning method. Finally, one day, I visited the nearby urban primary health center with my husband, where the doctor explained the importance of birth spacing and its implications on the health of a young mother and a child. That day, we realized that for many months we have been listening to similar things from Anita didi. As a result, we decided to opt for a long-acting reversible contraceptive method. Also, I started practicing self-care by following the things I learned from Anita didi.”
Given such situations, it is important that ASHAs are equipped to provide informed-choice counseling and services to young first-time parents. And, given the importance of key community gatekeepers, such as husbands and other family members, it is critical that they are engaged so that myths and misperceptions do not continue to persist in families and communities in India.