Champions of Change- Empowered Women Nurturing the Nation

08-03-2021

The International Women’s Day 2021 theme is ,Choose to Challenge,. We can all choose to challenge norms and call out inequality – because from challenge, comes change. In a similar bid to challenge and bring change are SuPoshanSanginis. They are community resources for Fortune SuPoshan – the Adani Foundation run special project–playing a pivotal role of care givers and advocates of good health across 23 CSR sites in 12 Indian states. 

The SuPoshan Sanginis are trained to assess children in the age group of 0-5 years through anthropometry and to refer severely malnourished children to nutrition rehabilitation centres (NRC) of the respective districts. They promote essential nutrition action among pregnant women, lactating mothers and adolescent girls, thereby reducing the occurrences of malnutrition and anaemia. Through their efforts, the Adani Foundation has reached 3,25,437 households in 1,268 villages and 139 urban settlements.

However, these SuPoshan Sanginis often battle prejudices and stigma before they are able to fulfil their duties. Once in the battlefield, they go beyond their call of duty without batting an eyelid. Here are glimpses of their unabashed grit and perseverance, which they have displayed even amidst the coronavirus crisis. 
 

Breaking Barriers  

In more than 3 years of being a SuPoshan Sangini in the Petwi village of Baksara Panchayat in Godda (Jharkhand), Anu Devi has established herself as a champion for education. This was in alignment with her efforts to curb cases of child marriage which is the root cause of intergenerational malnutrition. She was able to counsel parents of 35 children (especially girls) to send them to school. To bring such a change in the community’s mentality is no easy feat. 
She recalls that the initial days were difficult– the community members and landowners frowned upon her. She started small and slow by conducting meetings in the evening hours along with women in Anganwadi centres and with Self-Help Group members. She continued despite facing objections and sometimes even abuses.
Amidst the coronavirus crisis, Anu Devi took the lead in mobilizing and linking children of weaker and marginalised section with teachers of Gyanodaya – a digital learning education programme of Adani Foundation. Due to her intervention, 161 children started using the Gyanodaya App and YouTube channels to attend lessons even during the countrywide lockdown. She also followed-up regularly with adolescent girls and their families through phone calls to ensure that no child marriages took place. Despite the government’s restrictions on social gatherings, she learnt about and stopped 3 child marriages in her village. 
 

Embodying Strength and Hope

In the face of natural calamities, Suposhan Sangini Chandri Bhas helped communities be resilient and hopeful. While serving in the coastal town of Kovalam, she has made a mark for herself as a community guardian. Her energy is infectious and she lends herself to any task on hand. During the Ockhi cyclone in 2018, she provided psycho-social support to the communities, helping victims and their families to overcome fear and trauma. She surpassed everyone’s expectations during the 2019 flood relief work in Kerala, travelling 450 kilometres to different districts for organization and management of resources. She was responsible for dealing with the humanitarian aspects of the impending emergencies, particularly to rehabilitate people. 

Being a saviour, in more ways than one, Chandri did not sit at home during the coronavirus crisis. She was amongst those foot soldiers who were disseminating correct information about safety and hygiene practices to communities. She was assisting people who were availing services of the Mobile Healthcare Units (MHCUs), distributing masks, medicine kits, food packets, counselling the elderly and supporting them with necessities. This is over and above her duties as a SuPoshan Sangini and as a member involved with the activities of the Self-Help Groups in her village. 
 

Empowering the Differently-Abled

SuPoshan Sangini Deval Ghada hails from Nani Bhujpar village of Mundra in Kutch district. Here, she went about spreading awareness on nutritious food, healthy habits and hygiene practices until one day, when on a household visit she came across a 20-year old Tharu Hirbai, a differently-abled girl living with her parents. Deval ben wondered what she could do to help the young lady who was barred from many opportunities. Bringing synergies of Adani Foundation’s initiatives and bridging the gap of unawareness about multiple government schemes, Deval ben strived to ensure that Tharu gets a Viklang (disability) certificate which ensures a monthly pension and a free bus pass amongst other things. She was also quick to enrol her in Adani Skill Development Centre for a 3-month stitching course and helped in acquiring a sewing machine at no cost from the Samaj Suraksha Vibhag. 

Tharu is now an earning member of the family and living a dignified life.In fact, even amidst the pandemic, Deval ben managed to get artificial limbs for both her legs after following up rigorously with Social Security Office. Deval Ben’s efforts made her stand out in the villagers’ eyes – they now approach her for documentation support in relation to various government schemes and health related issues that go beyond the scope of Fortune Project SuPoshan.

Fortune SuPoshan started with 188 Sanginis in 2016 and today, a team of 640 Sanginis are working to collectively transform community healthcare at the grassroots. It is their small but consistent efforts that have improved the nutritional status and well-being of4,35,383 people.

Kavita Sardana, Advisor (Health & Nutrition), Adani Foundation. 

The author has anacademic background of post-graduation in Foods & Nutrition and Dietetics from University of Delhias well as a Master’s in Educationwith more than two decades of teaching experience. She has been actively engaged in helping women improve their health status through nutritional education.