Campaign ambassadors (L to R) Aditi, Muskan, Nandani and Sonam
While access to women’s healthcare services has significantly increased over the years, conversations around quality of care, specifically dignity in health care, are almost non-existent. Women and young girls are often judged/ disrespected, and not provided with the right guidance, which means many do not even receive proper care and treatment. As per the National Family Health Survey-5, only 46.5 per cent of the current users of family planning were ever told about the side effects of methods of family planning! And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
To address this issue, Khud se Pooche, a collective women’s movement to promote dignity in healthcare has started enrolling women between 18-30 to work as ambassadors, and champion the change towards building a collective idea of ‘care with dignity in healthcare’ for women. Young girl ambassadors are only too happy to be associated with it.
“When I first heard about the Khud Se Pooche programme I had very little idea about it. I thought the program would be about hygiene for women, but when I attended its first workshop I was really inspired by the motive to raise awareness about dignified healthcare and felt inclined to become a ambassador,” says Aditi Garg, 19, currently pursuing graduation from Delhi University.
It comes as a huge relief to know that the families of these girls are very supportive of what they are doing and keep motivating them.
“My mother was very appreciative of this work. She encouraged me by saying that the youth can change society’s mind and you guys should fulfil your responsibility towards society,” says Aditi.
“My mom feels that I am doing something major and believes we all will be able to bring some deep changes soon,” says Muskan Singh, 21. Singh is now planning to encourage her extended family back home to participate in Khud Se Pooche roadshows.
Is the discrimination real?
Though none of the ambassadors have faced any discrimination so far as health issues are concerned, they sure have seen such things happening around them. “I used to feel helpless seeing, but now I feel I can voice their concern and hence empower them. It is such a good feeling,” says Nandani, studying Mass Communication at Patna College.
In fact, this campaign has helped me as well a lot. Earlier, I never realised that access to dignified healthcare is my right,” she says.
“Though I haven’t personally faced any discrimination regarding health issues, I have seen my mother, my aunts, go through it. Once, when my maternal aunt undergoing labour pains, the nurse started scolding her. It is very humiliating. I have also seen hospital staff behaving badly with women at government hospitals,” adds Muskan.
Are such campaigns needed?
Definitely yes, say the ambassadors. It is very important to educate women about their rights, give them a safe space to talk and help them have a better understanding of their body and health.
Muskan tells us the story of a recent campaign: “This was a sanitary napkin distribution drive we did with an NGO. We went to women across slums to give them free sanitary napkins and encourage them to switch to better sanitary practices. While I was talking to women, I came to know that many had never used anything other than clothes/rags. They were also very hesitant to even talk or listen and some went into hiding because they felt ashamed of it. This got me thinking about doing something to end this stigma and get all these women to talk,” she says.
“I feel women in rural areas need such campaigns the most as they are most negligent of their health. That’s why having female ambassadors is important. I think being a girl I would be able to make women understand different issues better,” says Aditi, adding that she would like to continue with the work for as long as she can.
“There are many women, especially in rural area who face many health issues, but have no one to talk to. Khud Se Pooche is a huge help for all of them,” agrees another ambassador Sonam Kumari, also an undergraduate student.
“Khud Se Pooche has helped me understand how dignity the word itself means so different for every individual. Moreover, how we all just want to build a world where WOMEN ARE RESPECTED. This campaign has helped me identify myself, my surroundings, and what I need to do,” says Muskan adding that the best thing about being a campaign ambassador is that she is connected with so many different women across India, who have the same aim; just the perspective is different.