“Communities and countries and ultimately the world are only as strong as the health of their women.” –Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States
Across all rural communities in India, access to high-quality health care is a significant challenge — especially for women. Prior to 2017, our adopted village Bhikamkor had one small government hospital that was staffed by just one part-time male physician. Because of conservative cultural norms, women in Bhikamkor do not feel comfortable seeking medical attention from male doctors, especially for menstrual and reproductive health problems. Often, women will only travel to a far-away hospital in the case of life-threatening illnesses or injuries. In addition, women’s health issues are compounded by lack of health literacy knowledge.
The most pressing health problems in Bhikamkor include anemia, malnutrition and gynecological issues. In Rajasthan, over 80% of the population suffers from anemia, a rate that is even higher in rural communities. Health challenges in the village stem from low health literacy, diets that are low in nutritional value, and inadequate health care services.
To address these health issues, IPHD launched the Health Program in 2015. The program’s aims include improving health literacy and self awareness of health and to increase women’s access to high-quality health care in the village. Our current women’s health priorities are maternal and reproductive health, anemia, and menstrual health. For the next 4 years, the health program will focus on improving health outcomes in these areas through a two-prong approach: health services and advocacy and awareness.
IPHD opened the Saheli Health Clinic, Bhikamkor’s first and only gynecology health center, in July 2017 to provide gender-specific health services for women twice a month. The center provides pregnancy screenings, regular checkups, and STI tests. All visits and test fees are subsidized by IPHD to keep health services accessible and affordable for patients.
Advocacy & Awareness
The Health Literacy Project employs health outreach workers who lead educational campaigns in the village, conduct health scans of community members and oversee operations at the Saheli Health Clinic.
The Menstrual Hygiene Project fights menstrual taboo and distributes sanitary pads to adolescent girls and women in need.
The Community Kitchen Garden, located in the backyard of the Saheli Community Center, helps address malnutrition and anemia in the village by providing women the seeds, equipment, and space to grow nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables.