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Safe Deliveries, Brighter FuturesDistrict: Kendrapara, Orissa Village: Oklipal Partner Organization: Forum for Integrated Development and Research (FIDR) - Nature's Club
In the remote hamlet of Oklipal, where oppressive tradition hasn't loosened its grip, child-marriages are still common. Shantilata Maharana, got married at the age of 11 and had her first child at the age of 14. With poor access to information on health and child-care, she lost her first son at the age of 15, which left her husband depressed. She then had three more children and at all of 37 today, is a grandmother. Shantilata's children were born in the village, without medical assistance. Some of them were even born in the darkness, when the region was hit by cyclones for several months a year and the wavering flame of the kerosene lamps refused to cooperate.
But Shantilata does not let the younger women in the village go through what she did during her deliveries and child-care. 'My life changed tracks in 2006, after community health workers in the neighborhood motivated me to undertake ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) training as part of the government's National Rural Health Mission, to become an auxiliary nurse midwife and earn money independently,' she says. Together with the active support of FIDR-Nature's Club NGO, which organized the training, today, Shantilata serves as an interface between Oklipal's people and the hospital in the nearest block.
The NGO also motivated Shantilata to start a women’s social upliftment club, called the MEENA Club. In 2008, when TERI, under its LaBL initiative installed solar charging stations at Oklipal, with the support of its partner organization FIDR-Nature's Club, the MEENA Club took on the responsibility of managing it. Aided by the solar lamps, Shantilata was able to attend to the sick in the village even better. She accompanies expecting mothers in immediate need, to the block hospital for check-ups, without being afraid of commuting in the evenings. She also calls regular monthly meetings with the village women in the evenings in the light of the solar lanterns, to motivate them to follow hygienic practices and get regular check-ups.
'With quality light, the women feel safe during child-birth. The light also helps us read the name, expiry date and dosage of the medicines clearly, to avoid mishaps,' she says. Hara Patra, a resident of Oklipal recalls 'when I was delivering a baby in the village, the light helped Shantilata to cut the umbilical cord, clean and calm down the baby and drive insects and animals away’.
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