Dr. Kshama Metre, popularly known as Doctor Didi, is a social worker, pediatrician and the Founder and national Director of the Chinmaya organization for Rural Development (CORD). She earned her MD in pediatrics from Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi. inspired by Swami Chinmayananda in 1985, she has dedicated her life to transforming rural india, impacting 850 villages through the integrated rural development program at CORD. She received Padma Shri in 2008 and the guardian international Development achievement award in 2012 amongst other accolades.
It is heartening to learn that ICDS is partnering with Vedanta to boost the infrastructural requirements of some Anganwadis in 11 States across India. The Nand Ghars (as the Vedanta Anganwadis are called) are proper buildings with child-friendly amenities and a lively learning environment for children which will double up as an adequate, secure space for the counselling and care of pregnant and lactating women.
It will also serve as a base for empowering women by training and skilling them in various trades. It is imperative that stakeholders focus on mothers, families and communities in order to understand health, nutrition and early childhood learning needs. This is critical when the nation has woken up to the importance of empowering women through Self Help groups. Involving fathers and men in child care would further empower women and decrease the stereotypical image of women alone being responsible for rearing children.
Although poverty plays a role in malnutrition, ignoring the necessity of frequently feeding diverse foods in certain quantities, not drinking clean water, ignoring the importance of hygiene and sanitation play a significant role in contributing to malnutrition and poor childcare practices. Increasing awareness in communities and their involvement can help alleviate this to a great extent. Factors hindering community participation include males continuing to play a dominant role to the detriment of women coupled with vertical-undemocratic community leadership and management styles.
Without engaging community members, attempting to empower and include marginalized groups including women is difficult. Such social exclusion contributes to inequalities in health and nutrition often suffered by such groups. It should be remembered that local, semi-literate and illiterate people have much wisdom and insight that need to be taken into account while formulating programme strategies to achieve optimal effectiveness.
Community participation and women empowerment involve all members of the community appraising, analysing, planning and implementing plans.
It also involves the community, as a whole, including women, monitoring and evaluating results. With such participation, ownership and responsibility increases.
With the great diversity there is in the country, uniform solutions are rare. Active involvement of communities brings about feasible and effective local resolutions. Flexibility facilitates communities to add value, innovate, invent and improvise. Communities learn most by doing and by gaining experience and taking into account their diversity adds further value.
Bringing communities (and women in particular) to the centre stage helps to converge other related programmes such as Swachh Bharat, National Rural Drinking Water Program, MGNREGA, public distribution system, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana and NULM (National Urban Livelihood Mission) under National Livelihood Mission. The Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana has recognized the collective contribution of several women farmers and has increased the food security in poor families with an emphasis on overall development of mothers and children, adolescent girls and newly married women. Once women and communities as a whole are respected for their insight and potential, they become effective and empowered agents of change.