Written by Abhiram Mehendale
While coordinating with the field staff of partner organizations working for mMitra project, I closely observe the work of field workers. These women usually belong to the community in which they work. They have an innate understanding of the daily travails of a young mother in the community which makes them the obvious choice for the role of a ‘Sakhi’. Sakhi means a friend or a companion in many local languages.
Sakhis are the backbone of the mMitra voice call service. Their primary responsibility is to identify the eligible pregnant women and lactating mothers eligible for mMitra. The kind of enthusiasm and zeal shown by these Sakhis to work for well being of women and children in the community is commendable. Their rapport, not only with the subscribers but also with families of these women is commendable. All the Sakhis are amazing at multi-tasking and are able to balance home, family, children and work without much outside support. They are truly awe-inspiring.
Hamida (name changed), a 28 year old woman working as a ‘Sakhi’ for one of the partner organizations identified and registered over 240 women in the month of December 2014, and she has kept up this pace of enrolment by reaching to more and more women in the succeeding months till date. She has been able to establish a strong network with various stakeholders including
private clinics, nursing homes and private and charitable hospitals which has further enabled her to reach out to maximum women in the shortest possible time. She is representative of the young community level health workers who are flexible in their approach and their mind is teeming with innovative ideas. Her smiling face, soothing voice and communication skills are the qualities any community health worker needs to be successful.
While working for mMitra in the community, she sets her own registration target for the week and works with meticulous planning to achieve the same. Though very thin and of short stature, she is loaded with tremendous energy. When she was asked how she managed to bring in so many women in mMitra within a very short period, she replied that she always wanted to help the women in her community. Since childhood, she had seen many pregnant women suffering from the consequences of not having right information at the right time and felt that mMitra was just the right vehicle for her to fulfil her dream of serving her community. The women thank her for enrolling them for mMitra and praise her for important information they are getting through voice calls. Such experiences give her satisfaction that she could do what she wanted to. It also motivates her to reach to more and more potential subscribers.
She belongs to a lower middle class family staying in the slums of Oshiwara, in the Western suburbs of Mumbai. She works in the same community which has a large Muslim population. Most of the women in her community can understand Hindi but cannot read any language other than their mother tongue ‘Urdu’. The mMitra information brochures were printed in Hindi and Marathi and not in Urdu. Initially many women refused to enrol for mMitra, as they could not read the information given in the brochures. But, she did not give up. She understands Urdu, can read and write it as well. She translated the information brochure in Urdu. This showed her dedication towards her work and understanding of community.
In the long run, mMitra needs dedicated and committed field workers like Hamida to reach out to the maximum number of potential subscribers within the shortest possible time. With such an efficient field staff, it will be easier for mMitra to achieve its ultimate goal of improving the maternal and child health status in India, especially in the lower socio-economic sections of the society.