“According to our local custom, a mother should eat only once in a day. But MANSI has helped me break this taboo. I now eat more meals and nutritious foods as explained by ASHA didi,” says Dhanlakshmi Korra.
ASHA K. Kondamma performs the many roles of a health activist, educator and acare provider. She is a ray of hope for the mothers like Dhanlakshmi, who live in the remote tribal area of Paderu in Andhra Pradesh.
ASHA is the Accredited Social Health Activist scheme, implemented by the Indian government, under its National Rural Health Mission. Women are selected from villages, trained to work as an interface between the community and the public health system, and are accountable to the villagers.
Most of the tribal population in Paderu live below the poverty line. There is poor connectivity and infrastructure, poverty, and illiteracy, as they struggle to meet the basic requirements, including good healthcare for mothers and babies.
The most affected are women and girls who face socio-economic inequality in a highly patriarchal system. They are restricted to their gender-based roles which keep them from making choices in and outside their homes.With the help of ASHA workers like Kondamma, AIF’s Maternal and New-born Survival Initiative (MANSI) is saving lives of mothers and babies in these rural and impoverished areas of India.
MANSI utilizes a public-private partnership model to reduce maternal and child mortality by providing resources and support, thus, empowering local communities to care for their mothers and children, while improving the local health systems. ASHA Kondamma trained in Home-Based Maternal, Neonatal and Child Care (HBMNC) under MANSI, acts as the link between the tribal community and the public health system.
Dhanlakshmi lives with her husband and mother-in-law in Rangaseela village of Paderu. They survived on the meager income of `800- 1500 per week that Dhanlakshmi’s husband, K. Mohan Rao earned by driving an auto.
“My mother-in-law insisted I eat less during pregnancy. ASHA Kondamma helped me understand that I must eat a balanced diet to ensure good health for me and the baby. I wash my hands before feeding my baby to keep him safe from infections and diseases. I feed him at regular intervals and vaccinate him. I will have only two children and ensure that they get the bestof everything, especially health and education,” says Dhanlakshmi.
In keeping with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the MANSI program focuses on the significance of a clean and hygienic environment (SDG 6),breaking taboo of gender roles (SDG 5). The communities have healthier behavior practices (SDG 3), such as eating a balanced and nutritious diet.