Nutrition Awareness Camp for Tribal Populations

 

The Tribal Clinic set up by HERD Foundation at Pauni undertakes regular health awareness programmes as part of its mandated activities to create healthier communities settled here. We systematically take on health camps to popularize preventive measures by organizing health awareness programs on issues related to health and hygiene. While last fortnight we undertook educating about diarrhea, this fortnight focused on nutritional awareness. Our team has been working for past three years in the region and the surrounding villages are familiar with the scheduled programmes of which they are informed in advance.

It is largely women patients who get involved as they are well acquainted with the medical team and they become willing participants in these awareness programmes. Such events teach them to take better care of their children and families. The tribal women are appropriate messengers to carry back the lessons to implement them in their daily lives. It leads them to take informed care of children, aging parents, and community members. These health camps are organized at the Tribal Clinic and last week the nutrition awareness camp drew nearly 60 women to the event.

Information about events gets circulated well in advance and the nutritive recipe competition was publicized to bring in more participants to the health awareness camp. The camp was organized for the benefit of the community women to coincide with the medical team’s health examination scheduled visit to the Tribal Clinic. It is when the team goes out for providing medical assistance thrice a week to this location, that they also plan and conduct activities to ensure inclusive reach for need of health awareness programs for the benefit of the people living here.

On September 8, 2017 the camp was organized with the aim to improve the nutritional status of the populations and especially targeted the tribal families. The food-preparation based nutrition approach was undertaken to create nutrition awareness to enhance consumption of nutritionally rich fruits, vegetables and ingredients. The team members made a comprehensive presentation to promote and emphasize on the importance of dietary variety in order to improve the nutritional quality of their diet and to increase knowledge and education on food preparation.

The team successfully created an environment in which the women became engrossed in learning how to add sufficient variety in their eating habits through locally available, affordable fruits, vegetables and ingredients that would add to their nutritional intake. This kind of participatory nutrition education for the women actually helped in inspiring them to learn new ways for consumption of nutritionally rich food.

Knowledge about alternate food preparation was shared prolifically. The nutrition-rich food competition announced earlier had the women bring in dishes they had prepared. Prizes were given after tasting and judging of dishes. This was done to encourage them to prepare innovative nutritious food in their households that will increase consumption of new recipes. The tribal women felt benefitted in being imparted necessary knowledge and skills to prepare and consume nutrition rich foods that they would add to their diet.

It turned out to be a wonderful effort by the medical team to raise awareness as well as to promote strategies for achieving nutrition security and enhance diversified food habits among these tribal families. These communities after all suffer from micronutrient malnutrition and the team assisted in offering solutions to address the problems. It was a wonderful participatory gathering that taught them to understand the need to learn about importance of nutrition and know of recipes using seasonal vegetables, fruits and condiments.

HERD Foundation hopes the nutrition awareness programme at the community level will promote increased consumption of nutrient rich foods. The health camp attracted the rural poor and disadvantaged women living here. The activities and advice provided by the team were to improve their awareness and skills in cooking to benefit their healthy eating habits. We know the team will be successful in bridging this critical knowledge link to educate home makers – mostly women to take better care of themselves, their children and families.

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Vulnerability of Religiosity

The long arm of the law finally caught up with the so called god-man of Sirsa in Haryana. Fifteen long years of struggle since incrimination, this morning saw newspaper headlines emblazoning his 20 years imprisonment for brutal crimes. Social media is awash with more skeletons as victims come out with his strange ‘maafi’ (forgiveness) rituals for women and stories of men being castrated. It was truly all horrific! The cult-following enjoyed by this god-man can only be gauged by his Facebook page claiming – ‘more than 50 million people around the world as faithful followers’.

Even as we fail to understand such horrendous acts, so also we fail to understand the multitudes that throng such organizations. It is a despairing feature of our country that countless people become devotees of these self-proclaimed god-men. It is time we begin to question the rationality of these practices and look deeper inside to try and understand why they get so enamored. What is it that creates unflinching loyalty to these louts who get offered all the ill-founded veneration?

These bizarre figure-heads continue to draw vulnerable people in the name of religion.  Much like the axiomatic Pied Piper, be it the aged dhoti-clad reader-of-scriptures or the bling-appareled, gem-studded glib talker – hundreds of thousands of followers began to look upon them as saviors. Riddled with personal woes and copious troubles people flocked to them in hope of psychological respite and mystical ways out. They even end up offering their willing suspension of (dis)belief.  Who are these people that find time for these tricksters who soon enough begin to exercise abysmal control over them?

If you look closely it is certain classes of people who largely become followers. They are caught on by religiosity, caste-folds, paucity, and backwardness and are keen to don new identities. In the case of Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Insaan, sentenced today, it was the Mazhabi or out-caste Sikhs that became firmly entrenched into the cult. Thousands and thousands of people from villages, towns, and bastis of Haryana began to find new-found dignity and social come-uppance as members of the Dera.

And the Dera was rich. As are other such ashrams providing alternate ways of life. Importantly they provide medical support, food security and psychological well-being to an otherwise neglected strata of society. The Dera in particular is quite modern in outlook. With malls and other facilities women particularly found it convenient as it afforded them a wonderful escape from ordinary humdrum lives. Not to speak of spiritual succor – the ultimate opium of the masses along with a sense of righteousness. In fact it offered all of which that should rightly be coming from the government.

It ought to be the government’s job to deliver succor, relief, fulfillment to its people. But it is the portals of such organizations that draw the multitudes seeking it there. And the government just plays the shut eye. Despite suspicions of wrong doings the powers-that-be know full-well that these god-men offer a vote bank. Electoral outcomes matter and officials do not hesitate to kow-tow to these feigning god-men. After all, their nod could mean tacit support for vote margins. The highest in the land have not hesitated to bestow patronage.

Women are willy-nilly drawn into the fold. Lower middle class vulnerable women more so. A sense of freedom, alternate lifestyle, peace of mind and most important food in their bellies are some of the alluring reasons that draw them over. But when they come to learn that gender disparity and exploitation raises its ugly head in these fiefdoms in graver and more insidious ways – often it becomes too late for a turnabout. Unfortunately young women and even young men have suffered most grievously at such places.

We can now but suggest that nobody ought to follow such god-men blindly. It becomes the responsibility of civic institutions to caution people about dangers of following cults. We should assist people to question themselves about what they do and why.  Let religion be in the private domain, within homes and reserved for inner contemplation and personal wellbeing. Let the sacrosanctity of religiosity be a matter of personal spiritualism and not become an opportunity in the hands of such culprits. Let us no longer be duped in the name of our religious vulnerability nor allow self-seeking god men to lay hand on ill-gotten gains, exploitations and our personal dignity.

Unconstitutional! Unconstitutional! Unconstitutional!

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Images – Courtesy Google 

The Supreme Court of India today granted victory to Indian women and makes August 22, 2017 a historical date! Marking a major victory for women’s rights activists, India’s topmost court has ruled the practice of instant divorce by just uttering the words – talaq, talaq, talaq as unconstitutional. The court has also stayed the practice for six months until the government brings up the needed legislation.

The Supreme Court verdict came after considering petitions challenging the so-called “triple talaq” custom. The cases were filed by five Muslim women who had been divorced this way and two rights groups. India was until now among a handful of countries where a Muslim man could divorce their wives in seconds by just saying the word talaq (divorce) three times.

With the Supreme Court’s judgment comes the suspension of instant Islamic divorces for the next six months. The Indian parliament has now to create appropriate laws and bring the legislation in place. Instigation by parents and family is the single largest reason for divorce among Muslims, according to a survey of 20,671 individuals (16,860 men and 3,811 women) carried out between the months of March-May 2017.

Interestingly, there were only 0.3% of reported divorces of both women and men respondents under the oral triple talaq at one go! The most common reasons cited for talaq and there percentiles are as follows: 13.27% – instigated by parents/relatives, 8.41% – unable to fulfill dowry demand, 7.96% – husband having affair, 7.08% – wife not having children, 6.19% – not being a good housewife, 4.87% – husband has no job/lost job, 4.42% – sexual incompatibility, 3.54% – husband does not like the wife, 2.65% – couple only has girl-children, 2,65% – wife’s health not good, 0.44% – spur of the moment anger, 0.88% – alcoholic – pronounced talaq under influence of alcohol, 37.61% – other reasons.

The Supreme Court struck down the validity of instant triple talaq by a majority of 3:2. A bench comprising of five judges, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar included Justices Kurian Joseph, R F Nariman, U U Lalit and S Abdul Nazeer. There are actually six petitions before the Supreme Court, with the main plea filed by Uttarakhand-based Shayara Bano. Her husband of 15 years divorced her by pronouncing triple talaq.

In a 3:2 majority judgment, the Bench set aside talaq-e-biddat or instant talaq, the practice of Muslim men divorcing their wives by uttering talaq thrice consecutively. If a law does not come into force in six months’ time the Supreme Court injunction will continue. Interestingly countries in which triple talaq is already banned include Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh, Pakistan, Sudan, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Algeria and Tunisia.

GENDER APPROACHES – HERD GROUP PHARMACY DIVISION

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Pharmacists, more commonly known as chemists in our country, are healthcare professionals who practice in a pharmacy. It is a field of health sciences that focuses exclusively on the safe and effective usage of medications. As health care team members they are directly involved with patient care. To be able to do this they have to undergo university-level education to understand all about biochemical drugs, drug uses, therapeutic roles, side effects, potential drug interactions as well as be cognizant of monitoring factors for using medications.

It appears to be a good idea to staff pharmacies with women team members, particularly at the store counters. This would be especially useful to interact and respond to women customers walking into the medical store. It has been seen observed that women customers are generally more comfortable to talk to women on the workforce team. Such suggestions have been going around in the sector, emanating from several quarters. It’s been given to understand that the presence of a lady makes female customers (already be troubled by disease and patients back home) instantly comfortable.

Aside from it being a great idea to increase the sales process, it would also work for enhancing the much needed gender equity in the pharmacy sector. In our country very often advice is sought from pharmacists regarding medications to be taken for general ill- health conditions. The best of us may have done so at some point. Since most medical stores are run by men there are hardly any women present to quell doubts arising for women customers. So it’s a good idea to have women pharmacists to tackle issues faced by female visitors.

More often than not in case of mild ill-disposition like common fevers, cold, coughs, and headaches, it is quite common for pharmacists to be quizzed for suitable remedies. If a pharmacy is closer at hand than a doctor many people simply walk up to the medical store and seek guidance as to what medicine should be taken. In the case of women customers having female pharmacists across the counter may be a sound idea to counsel such women as to the best course forward.

By and large, although sizeable numbers of females pass out of pharmacy education each year, a pharmacist’s job is not yet considered as an ideal job for women. Such conservative thinking and traditional opinions continue to plague the sector that keeps women largely out of it. HERD Pharmacy plans to recruit women with the aim to induct willing female pharmacy staff to enhance their diverse roles and to make the best use of their skills. We are keen to make our pharmacies women-friendly so that women customers may approach comfortably and be able to share whats on their mind.

“The feminisation of pharmacy is a fascinating insight into the overall make up of the pharmacist workforce…” ~~ Anas Hasan

May 8 – World Ovarian Cancer Day

Ovarian cancer affects about quarter million women all over the world! It kills about 140,000 women annually. Surprisingly it does not distinguish between women of developed or developing countries! Hence it is essential to know all there to know about this dreaded disease. All of us must know the symptoms, risk factors, family history regarding ovarian cancer.

Sadly, ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate among all gynecologic cancers. Also it is characterized by lack of awareness of symptoms and late stage diagnosis. This is why May 8 got marked out in 2013 to observe World Ovarian Cancer Day. The day focuses on ovarian cancer and many of us educate communities about ovarian cancer. It is also a day to build solidarity for women fighting the disease.

Largely overlooked in terms of awareness creation and funding, it is time to tell all about it. Ovarian cancer symptoms are quite similar to other less serious conditions. Further absence of early detection tests results in late diagnosis, often leading to few survivors who may advocate or draw attention to the disease. It was therefore decided to draw worldwide attention and gladly the idea was accepted by participating countries that now offer good momentum.

It is really important to spread awareness about the disease, especially about its symptoms that often get confused with less serious conditions like gastrointestinal disorders! Most victims are identified only in advanced stages when the disease becomes difficult to treat. Hence it is critical to create awareness about the risk factors, signs and symptoms. Also, family history plays a definite role in identifying the disease.

Experts opine that frequency and combination of symptoms help in identifying ovarian cancer from other conditions. Anybody with the following symptoms on most days within a three week period must consult a doctor immediately:

  • Increased abdominal size / persistent bloating
  • Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Needing to pass urine more urgently or more frequently
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Unexpected weight loss or weight gain around the abdomen
  • Fatigue

Early diagnosis helps in improving chance of survival. When the cancer is confined to the ovary then up to 90% of women are likely to survive for maybe more than five years, under specialized treatment. Women with symptoms of ovarian cancer should find a specialist so that an accurate diagnosis is made. Later they should go to a gynecologic oncologist who would be the best expert to manage the disease.

Most times ovarian cancer gets diagnosed when the cancer is already at an advanced stage. Many women delay seeking help in the false belief that the symptoms are related to their period, menopause or other ailments. With modern day tests and examinations it is possible to arrive at well deduced diagnosis. It is to be remembered that a cervical smear test or Pap test does NOT detect ovarian cancer. It only detects pre-cancerous changes to the cervix that is treated more successfully than ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer in women, worldwide, and is the most serious gynecological cancer. For women without a family history, the biggest risk factor is age. It therefore becomes essential to talk to doctors to determine personal risks. A family history of breast or ovarian cancer requires genetic counseling. This is really important and we can show our love, support to women we cherish in our homes – mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and friends.

Every woman in the world is at risk of developing ovarian cancer, the most serious gynecologic cancer. May 8 is therefore the day to spread the word on World Ovarian Cancer Day to provide an opportunity to raise awareness of this disease. HERD Foundation joins in this global movement to ensure all the women know about ovarian cancer.

 

A Pashtun Joan of Arc

Malala - Pashtun Joan of Arc

Malala – Pashtun Joan of Arc

The world watched with pride as Malala from Pakistan and Satyarthi from India jointly received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”. It was an awesome moment. Accepting the award in Oslo on December 10, all of seventeen, Malala clearly stole the show. One was humbled by her gesture of giving away the award money to the fund for building schools.

This proud Pashtun displayed such magnetism and confidence – she had the audience delighted by her lovely acceptance speech. She is the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Born on July 12, 1997 in Pakhtunkhwa province of Pashtun ethnicity,  as she elaborated on the stage yesterday, her name Malala means “grief-stricken”! She speaks flawless Pashto, English and Urdu. In the wake of tragic attempt to kill her, over 2 million people signed the Right to Education campaign’s petition that led to ratification of the first Right to Education Bill in Pakistan.

World outpouring continued unabated after the dastardly act. Malala Yousafzai first drew the public eye when her cry for education became known through the diary published on BBC Urdu. But when she was shot in the head in October 2012 by Taliban she captured the international imagination. Surviving the dramatic assault when a militant shot her in the school bus in Swat her home town, she was badly wounded.  Since then her she has had a fan following like no other. If the standing ovation at the ceremony is anything to go by, Malala yet continues to set sparks afire. And with such utter humility.

Besides the Nobel Peace Prize, she is the recipient of Sakharov Prize, Simone de Beauvoir Prize, National Youth Peace Prize and has an honorary Canadian citizenship. Malala Yousafzai is now turned to be a Pakistani activist for female education. She has become an icon for the fight for children’s education rights. “I had two options – one was to remain silent and wait to be killed,” Yousafzai said. “And the second was to speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.” Her incredible speech will be remembered in a long long time.

Safety First for Our Women and Girls

Safety First

Safety First

While the state owes responsibility for safety and security of its citizens, looking into the current scenario of crimes against women it now appears we need to instill self protective measures to keep women prepared from nefarious eventualities. The political will to tackle this menace defies explanation. It is beyond comprehension what the government has in mind when it comes to addressing critical safety issues. Stringent capital punishment is the only way to contain this crime. It is mind boggling that the utilization of Rs. 1,000 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund remains untouched! What are we waiting for when every day we witness occurrence of assault and fatalities among women of all ages.

The latest incident involving the rape and victimization of a woman financial analyst by a taxi driver in Delhi brings all the angst and worry back again. Plans to make the One Stop Crisis Centers for women operational have not found their mark. Perhaps the files have not moved. We read reports stating “the various schemes were yet to be finalized”. Does the government still think this is non-serious business and hopes to dust it under the carpet? Or bicker over it during zero-hour? It is time now that women followed some safety precautions to avert and allay these kinds of sinister events.

A planned personal-safety approach would be good for women who have to go outdoors on their own. Women are of course constantly targeted the moment they step out of homes. Be it the domestic help, college student, office worker or tourists – they become the cynosure of molesters and rapists. The incidents of harassment and aggression happen right there on roads, buses, metro trains – in fact everywhere. Precautions may be taken to outwit offenders and to ward off unwanted advances. Safety training should be routinely drummed into minds of young girls.

Women should follow a set of common-sensical tips to train their minds to circumvent such incidents. They should keep family members aware of their activities who should check on them constantly. Next, your demeanor should appear to discourage advances. Always walk with confidence since predators seek out timid and vulnerable looking victims. At all times be aware of immediate surroundings and listen to your gut feeling. Do not draw unnecessary attention to yourself so as to unwittingly attract a predator’s interest. If confronted by a person look him straight in the eye and question his behavior loudly. Most predators avoid public attention. Avoid being alone after dark and stay away from isolated areas. It is a good idea to enroll for personal defense classes to learn basics of hand combat for women. Find out where you can buy personal alarms, protection devices like pepper sprays and mobile phones with emergency apps.

Cell phones today can be used most effectively in case of emergencies. They are helpful for women who have to travel a lot. Safety apps for women reduce the risk of travelling through unfamiliar territories. These applications can be found on smart phone systems. The most common of such apps allows you to alert your family when you are in danger. Just two taps send predetermined messages to six close friends or relatives. They will also convey your exact location and address. Another app allows you to capture a picture of the attacker to a harassment prevention internet site where he is identified. Another smart phone app sends alarms to multiple guardians simultaneously. While one of them would be receiving a phone call, others would be receiving messages.

As they say self help is the best help. So by the time we wait for state systems to become effective let us teach our women and girls to be mindful of their lives.  A well defined safety plan is the best bet. One does have to go out – study, work and earn livings. And so they best know how to take care. Women today must have the strength and determination to fight back violence without fear, embarrassment or guilt.  Be aware, be prepared and be on guard. Finally check out this wonderful American website http://www.justyellfire.com/. Watch especially the 20 minute video that teaches girls how to fight back against sexual assault and abduction. Since 2006 this website has empowered 1 million girls in 44 countries with getaway skills and the right to live without fear of being a victim of sexual assault.

Be Your Own Vigilante

Be Your Own Vigilante