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IGNOU empowers women on health issues
NEW DELHI, FEB 20 (AGENCIES):
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Published on 21 Feb. 2010 12:06 AM IST
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At 55 percent, Madhya Pradesh has the highest malnutrition figures in the country for children under three and Vidisha district is one of the worst performers in the state. Things are, however, slowly changing for the better and leading this quiet revolution are women like Suman Lodhi, Sarvesh Malviya and Sita Saxena - women who have been empowered by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). They are among the 1,014 anganwadi workers who underwent training as part of a programme launched by IGNOU in association with UNICEF and the department of Women and Child Development of Madhya Pradesh, to better deal with child malnourishment and women’s health issues. The anganwadi movement, launched in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services, was envisaged as the nation’s primary tool against child malnourishment, infant mortality and the health-related problems of young mothers. It began with just 33 centres; today, there are nearly 7.5 lakh anganwadis across the country. The IGNOU programme is aimed at providing skill-based education to anganwadi workers. Moreover, “It has really helped,” according to Naki Jahan Qureshi, Women and Child Development Officer, Vidisha. “The results have been really quite encouraging,” says Qureshi, “So encouraging, that the Madhya Pradesh government is planning to extend the programme to all the districts.” The training modules, conducted in seven development blocks across the district from December 11, 2008, until May 28, 2009, have instilled much-needed self-confidence in the workers, says Qureshi. The training involved community health, infant care, innovative ways to combat malnutrition, nutritional needs during pregnancy, special needs of adolescent girls, anaemia, issues related to women’s empowerment, immunisation and water purification. “The idea was to make the workers understand that they are not tasked to just distribute mid-day meals, but to play a larger role - of being a mother, friend or a family member,” says IGNOU’s Dr. Harkirat Bains, the coordinator of the programme. “To make anganwadi workers understand the special needs of women and children, IGNOU developed a set of four books. The books were based on the intellectual levels of anganwadi workers since the challenge was to address the huge educational and language differences among them,” says Dr. Bains. The workshop, however, was not all theory. “The workers were given practical knowledge about the importance of haemoglobin in blood, blood pressure, nutrition, weight-loss and other health-related problems that adolescent girls face,” she adds. The programme has visibly empowered the anganwadi workers. “After attending the sessions, they feel more self-confident and are helping women and children understand the benefits of a healthy and wholesome lifestyle,” says Dr Bains. For Sarvesh Malviya, a worker at an anganwadi near Pedi school, the training was a boon. “It was a challenge to understand the needs of children and especially girls. Today, I feel more confident and I am able to address their problems more diligently,” says Malviya, a mother of two. Similar is the experience of Savita Tiwai, 45, who runs the anganwadi centre near Kartik Chowk. She is today almost like a family doctor for those who visit her. “The IGNOU trainers helped me understand how best to address the symptoms of anaemia and malnutrition among women and children and the problems teenaged girls face during puberty,” says Tiwai. “The discussions with paediatrics and gynecologists were really helpful.” Although the training was focused on health issues, the anganwadi workers derived other benefits from it as well. Taking about the case of Manju Srivastava who is posted at Vidya Nagar anganwadi centre. Srivastava is today an expert in waste management, thanks to the training sessions. In addition, she now creates beautiful toys for kids from waste products. The quiet change sweeping Vidisha has not gone unnoticed. While Madhya Pradesh intends to take the IGNOU programme to all its districts, other states have evinced interest as well. “Chhattisgarh is keen to implement the programme in the state and has approached us,” says IGNOU Vice Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, adding that the project may soon also be launched in Assam. The small step taken in Vidisha may well prove a big leap for the 5.7 crore malnourished children in the country.

 
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