'Helping girls in Gujarat fight anaemia very important'
At least 2100 out-of-school girls benefited from the Mamta Taruni scheme launched by Gujarat state government in partnership with NGO Chetna three years ago.
The action research project launched by the NGO targeted at making health and nutrition onformationand services accessible to adolescents and young people in Gujrat.
“The project was so important as 75% of girls in Gujarat were found to be anaemic, 10% underweight, 35% had reproductive tract infections, and at least 50% girls below the age of 20 years were already mothers, according to the district level health survey, 2007-08,” said Indu Capoor, founder and director, NGO Chetna.
The programme registered girls in the target age-group. Initial base-line data included weight and Body Mass Index of unmarried girls, they received tetanus injections, iron and other nutritional supplements and were given information on nutrition and sexual and reproductive health.
“We developed a Mamta Taruni card to record the services to adolscents and their regular attendance at the information sessions helped in conducting a comparative analysis showing their improvements,” said Pallavi Patel, director-in-charge, Chetna.
“At the end of the one-year term of actual implementation of the programme, we found that 85% wee aware of condom use as compared to 46% at the start, similarly the awareness of reproductive tract infections saw a rise of almost 40%, with 90% saying that they are aware of the perils attached to poor hygiene and sanitation and similarly the awareness of anaemia and HIV and AIDS infections increased to almost 100%,” she said.
The NGO conducted the programme across two blocks of Gujarat, which covered 53 villages, 20 in the tribal areas and 33 in the rural belt.
The NGO trained about 55 peer educators, who they used for disseminating information to the masses.
“We went from door to door to educate families. We first had to convince parents to sending their daughters to the programme and then convince the girls in attending workshops regularly, both of which were a challenge,” said Nandi Jala, 19, who by her own admission benefitted tremendously from the programme.
“The effectiveness of the programme can be gauged from the data collected. But for me personally, the nutrition programmes did me so much good that I never fell ill in the last two years,” said Jala, who continues to educate the masses, despite her not receiving the monthly Rs 25 incentive promised to her by the state.
“I feel very good when I see the health of the girls improving. It is very satisfying,” said Gomti Kumari, another peer-educator, who received her monthly incentive only once in two years.