Embarrassed government health activists called Asha are refusing to door-to-door with condoms that now carry the name, jeopardising a nationwide mission.
Running a safe-sex campaign under the National Health Mission, the health ministry is giving away free contraceptives such as condoms, besides regular and emergency pills, through these ground-level woman motivators.
When the fresh stock arrived in May, the product name had changed from Deluxe to Asha.
“First they exploit us as employees and now they malign our image,” said an Asha worker.
“People now call us and say: ‘Ek Asha dena (Give me one Asha)’. They have even started making jokes on us. It is awkward and undignified.”
The new, “more attractive” package -- in the government’s views -- carries the image of a gorgeous couple aimed at seducing men. Asha Workers and Facilitator Union state president Kirandeep Panchola confirmed that all Asha workers in Punjab had boycotted the distribution of these condoms “until the government changes its name and we get a fresh supply”.
Panchola said Asha workers would take the issue to National Health Mission managing director Hussan Lal on Friday. Hussan Lal was unavailable for comments in spite of repeated attempts to reach him.
An Asha worker is a woman in the age group of 25 to 45 who is qualified up to Class 10. Provided with knowledge and a medical kit to deliver first-contact healthcare, every Asha is expected to be a fountainhead of community participation in public health programmes in her village.