On Thursday December 27, we made the drive back from Giridih to Ranchi. On the way we stopped in the Gola district, a place I visited last time! There I got to meet four sevikas (plus one male helper) and one sayonjika. Quick recap: Ekal Arogya, which is Ekal’s health division of village development, trains one woman in each village to be a sevika. The sevika knows basic symptoms and home remedies, and uses preventative techniques to keep her village healthy. For example, she educates the children on hygiene and finds places to build soak pits. A sayonjika oversees ten sevikas.
Village women live in a very different culture than I’m used to. It’s a lot harder there for women to open up and speak freely. To my surprise, they had no such qualms. They told me that thanks to Ekal’s training, they have become very respected in their communities. They have a job, and the whole village supports them and listens to them. I could see their empowerment shining as they looked me in the eye and talked to me about their personal experiences, feelings, and concerns.
These women do a lot of amazing work. For example, after training they now know that diarrhea, a very common malady in children, is caused from an imbalanced diet. The sevika identifies these children and talks to their parents. They work together to fix the issue. Diarrhea is a lot less common now thanks to awareness, they said.
They showed me some of the plants they use for home remedies. For example, the amrita twig was a supple tree branch that could be used for almost anything. If crushed into a paste, it could be applied to the skin over a fracture to heal the bone. Other medicines could be made from it for hormonal issues and diabetes.
The women were all very thankful to Ekal. They told me they’re glad they have the knowledge to help their village on their own power. They have seen their community improve in front of their eyes thanks to this health education.
The women also spoke to me freely about some changes they’d like to see. Subadra, the sayonjika, oversees almost 2000 people. Every month she has to travel to the ten villages under her watch. She has to walk, and it takes her hours. She comes back home late, in the dark. She asked if Ekal could provide a scooter for sayonjikas to travel easier.
Meena, the sevika for the village Magalpur, asked for a smartphone. This way sevikas could use WhatsApp and have easier communication with each other, doctors, and Ekal. Basanthi, the sevika for the village Masredi, asked for an official sevika uniform. With a sari and cap, people could recognize them as a sevika and they would have more respect. A jacket would help for the colder times of the year, and shoes would help when they have to walk for house calls. Beena, the sevika for the village Purna Sirka, asked for a materials kit. Supplies like a notebook, pen, and case would help them stay organized and write reports.
All of these things are so simple but would make their work multifold easier. It’s also easy for us in the USA to raise money for these things. I was really happy that the women opened up to tell us these desires because with this knowledge, we can now make these changes happen. I’m thankful that this trip allowed me to ask all the people I met about the changes they want to see, because now Ekal can improve even more.
And that’s that! I am now back in America looking back on my trip. It was wonderful to come back to Jharkhand and see even more new, nuanced sides to the work that Ekal does. After talking to so many, I can see that Ekal really gives people and communities hope for a better future. I’m happy that I can play even a small part in that.