Encouraged and empowered: Helping women help themselves
Like most girls from her village, Khushboo grew up accepting the established gender roles. She would do housework in her parents’ home until the day she moved into her husband’s home, and she wouldn't leave their husband’s house until she was carried out – when she died.
Chetna: Its name means “awakening,”and the Chetna project exists to awaken voiceless, marginalised women in North India to the transforming power of education, good health care, and micro-enterprise.
Chetna is a socio-economic initiative of Duncan Hospital, located in Bihar State. The hospital was established in the 1930s when Dr.Cecil Duncan started an open-air dispensary under a mango tree. Today Duncan Hospital is one of the largest mission hospitals in North India, enjoying the goodwill of the surrounding communities.
One third of the world’s poor live in India, and 40% of its people live below the poverty line. With a population just over five million, the district in which the Duncan Hospital is located is one of the most impoverished in Bihar state. Women are particularly vulnerable because education is often not an option. Health and hygiene standards are very poor, and employment opportunities are scarce.
SIM partners with Chetna as they work to empower women in a number of villages by providing training in basic healthcare, literacy, and income-generating projects. Villagers – women in particular – are learning to help themselves and better provide for their families. Women learn how to perform antenatal checks and to immunise, contributing to a reduction in both infant and maternal mortality rates in the area. There is also a focus on managing tuberculosis and malnutrition.
Working hand in hand with Chetna, we long to see many more girls and women in North India awaken to their potential - like Khushboo, for example.
Khushboo’s stubborn gaze and steady hands are surprising in one so young. She meets people’s eyes, speaking confidently to patients and village leaders alike.
Like most girls from her village, Khushboo grew up accepting the established gender roles. She would do housework in her parents’ home until the day she moved into her husband’s home. The best women didn’t leave their husband’s house until they were carried out – when they died.
She didn’t expect to have an education or to get involved with the community. But then one day she met a Chetna worker who taught women how to run healthcare centres for mothers and children. Did she want to receive the training?
Soon Khushboo was learning how to give pre-natal exams and vaccinations. She was encouraged to apply for the job of village asha, a nurse who oversees basic healthcare needs and arranges hospital visits. Not knowing how to apply, she didn’t give it much thought. After that she got a job providing family planning information, and then another job 400 kilometres away. Eventually she decided to return to help her own village.
Now Khushboo is married and has two small children. She has reconnected with Chetna friends, who are helping villages provide their own healthcare. When she heard there was a position open for an asha, she applied for the job … and got it. She is responsible for three wards, around 2,000 people, and all have a 100% vaccination rate.
A local organisation has promised Khushboo a job when her children are older and she can work full time. She will oversee maternal and children’s health initiatives in many villages. Khushboo is so glad Chetna reached out to her with training and encouragement. She hopes that she too can make a big difference in the lives of women and girls.
When you give to SIM and Chetna, your gifts will help the Chetna project meet the health needs of impoverished women and girls in North India. Donations to SIM’s Community Transformation Fund (09320) will enable more women to receive life-changing training and greatly benefit their families. If you’d like to help a woman find her voice, please consider supporting Chetna today. Check out our website regularly for prayer requests and opportunities to serve in the areas of health care and more.