|CORE Group's leadership, including Pinky Patel (fourth from left), in India.|
You recently traveled through India with CORE Group. Tell me a bit about why you all made the journey, some goals, and also some surprises.
This year, to meet the professional development and learning needs of the CORE Group community, we launched the annual Practioner Academy Community Health Workshop. This workshop is designed to bring together public health professionals from all over the world to spend a week visiting and learning from a successful community health project. For our first site, we selected the Comprehensive Rural Health Project (CRHP), founded in 1970 by Drs. Raj and Mabelle Arole. With the community always in mind, CRHP pioneered the principles of comprehensive, community-based primary care. Communities are encouraged to take health into their own hands through the support of the Village Health Workers (VHWs), community groups such as women’s groups, farmers groups, and adolescent groups, and the mobile health outreach team and CRHP hospital and training center.
My role was to film the workshop and interview the participants, Village Health Workers, communities, and Comprehensive Rural Health Project staff to capture lessons learned and understand what makes this model so successful.
But, then they became a part of Comprehensive Rural Health Project's training program, which empowered and trained them to become VHWs, learning about life-saving community-based health approaches. They were trained to treat diarrhea, check for leprosy, provide pre and ante-natal care, and even perform safe deliveries in people's homes. They also addressed broad community concerns such as the low-status of women, the caste system, poverty, traditional beliefs, agricultural production, watershed development, and appropriate technology. Tackling the social determinants of health and empowering the whole community is the key to their success and central to the CRHP model.
|Children, particularly girls, face great obstacles to receive education.|
I was born in the States but have traveled to and throughout India many times. I believe that the media and even public health practitioners could do a better job of portraying and promoting the strength and potential of Indian girls and women.
Thankfully, there are many campaigns trying to protect girls against the incredibly high rates of infanticide throughout India. Many of these campaigns are trying to educate parents, families, and communities on the potential of the girl child. As one young girl told me, "Girls are perceived as a burden from the time of birth until death. Yet, it is us that give birth, raise our children, care for our families, and work so hard to make life better for those we love. We are NOT burdens! We deserve the chance to live our lives."
Within the public health, what are the main concerns facing young girls, both rural and urban?
|Girls in India face extreme discrimination yet show incredible resiliency.|
The low-status of women throughout India, and the world, MUST be addressed if we ever really hope to change the world. Empowering a girl not only changes her life, but every generation after!
Share one (or some) of the most meaningful stories you heard from females during various trips throughout India.
While everyone I have ever interviewed left a lasting impact on me, there is one story that genuinely broke my heart but also reminded me of how powerful a woman can be. For the sake of confidentiality, I will call her Ambika.
Ambika was forced into an early child marriage at the age of 12 to a man 21 years her senior. She was forced to have sex and became pregnant with twins by age 16. She struggled with the pregnancy and eventually lost one child- the boy- and was left with a girl, which was a death sentence for her and her daughter. Despite having NO control over the sex of her child, she was beaten and BURNED and almost died as a result of having a girl-child. Thankfully, she survived and escaped with her daughter. Amika is now slowly rebuilding her life. Despite enduring such horrible tragedies, she believes in a brighter future, especially for her daughter. She is determined to make that happen by teaching her daughter of her potential, providing her with an education and a healthy adolescence free from marriage or pregnancy.If you could build a program, share of an effective class, or highlight an overt need you saw being met while there what would it be?
I think the most powerful thing I learned that should be shared is how the Comprehensive Rural Health Project empowers the COMMUNITIES to transform their lives. They do not go into these places with donor-driven proposals about what type of program must be created to meet donor requirements. Instead, they ask the communities what their problems are. They then work with them to find culturally-relevant, practical solutions, that can provide sustainable change. The communities select the VHWs, decide on what issues need addressing, and even create farmers groups, women and men's groups, and adolescent groups to keep everyone connected and involved. It was wonderful to hear one man say "We are capable of changing our own lives. Even if CRHP went away tomorrow, we would continue to grow." Now that is TRUE development!
Going forward, how has this experience shaped or reshaped your commitment to the field of public health and in achieving equity for all women and girls?
Sometimes it can be incredibly discouraging to hear the news or reports about the low-status and treatment of women around the world. You begin to question the real difference that can be made in the face of such extreme situations. But meeting these women and girls, listening to their stories of hardship and triumph, hearing about their future dreams and goals, and witnessing their strength of spirit reminds me of why this fight is worthwhile. Every girl deserves a chance!