Praj Foundation believes that a healthy woman is the first step towards empowerment. We have encouraged women in selected talukas to grow their own kitchen/nutrition garden through low cost and easily available techniques, like using native seeds, protecting plants using old saris and utilizing vertical space to grow climbers. This has increased consumption of vegetables in their diet, thereby improving their health, which has apparently brought drastic improvement in their hemoglobin (Hb) count.
Over 70% women have established kitchen gardens, which have at least seven varieties of vegetables, fruits and medicinal plants. They use the traditional barter system when they grow surplus, ensuring that every family has a variety of produce. Around 20% women have generated surplus income through vegetable sale, poultry and floriculture.
Women with additional land are encouraged to go commercial by growing vegetables, cultivate marigold and jasmine in open fields and raise backyard poultry. After satisfying their daily requirement, excess vegetables were sold in the local market generating an annual income of around INR 10,000/- each. In Velhe and Wada talukas of Maharashtra, we have been organizing focused group discussions followed by preventive healthcare sessions for over 1200 women in 22 villages (12 villages in Velhe and 10 in Wada).
Periodic health checkups have proven that women have overcome anemia and nutritional deficiencies through simple and regular remedial changes. Over 800 women participated in “Arogya Samwad”, where they shared information and experiences related to healthy practices and encouraged other women to adopt similar healthy lifestyles. Women have gained confidence, respect in the family and have become empowered in the real sense.
1.Preventive health care for women
Lack of healthy diet and insufficient nutrition are major causes of chronic diseases. In rural India, most health issues are linked to socio-economic conditions and cultural practices related to health and hygiene. Our preventive healthcare programme focuses on improving health status of women through various interventions such as creating awareness through health sessions, promoting kitchen gardens, lifestyle improvement etc.
The program initiated in 2008 in 3 villages covering 250 women in Mulshi taluka in vicinity of Matrix R&D Centre, has spread to 12 villages in Mulshi and Velhe taluka of Pune district and 10 villages in Wada taluka of Palghar district covering 1350 women.
Imparting knowledge on health: Health education is an integral part of the program. During these years, as many as 89 health sessions were conducted in 22 villages covering 950 women. The objective was to improve awareness on importance of nutrition and health. The use of animation films and case studies made the subject more interesting and facilitated early adoption of the healthcare practices.
Nutritional security through kitchen gardens: Kitchen gardens were planted in the backyard by almost 75% of the beneficiaries. They were nurtured using compost while the grey water took care of irrigation requirement. The beneficiaries regularly followed biological, cultural and mechanical methods for controlling pests and diseases. At least 8-10 types of leafy and other vegetables were grown throughout the year. This has helped increase availability of vegetables, thereby increasing the frequency of its consumption in their diet and contributing towards better nutrition.
Nutritious recipe demonstrations: Nutritious recipes demonstration sessions were organised in each of the selected village. Women prepared tasty recipes using low cost, nutritious but locally available ingredients. During the year 80 recipe demonstrations were organised in villages which helped in adding variety and nutrition to their daily food intake.
All these interventions have positively impacted the women beneficiaries. There is a positive trend in haemoglobin levels and other health parameters.
2. Mahila Melava
Programs focused on women’s health (महिला मेळावा) were organised in Mulshi, Velhe and Wada. The objective was to share knowledge and experiences about preventive health care programme and lifestyle changes adopted by beneficiaries leading to improved health.
Over 750 women participated in these programs. During these Melava’s, skits based on information covered during health session were presented by each village level women’s group. Beneficiaries shared their experiences on improved health due to consumption of nutritious food. Exhibition displayed nutritious recipes prepared by them while they explained the nutritional benefits of each of them. Seeds of native varieties of vegetables with high protein content were also displayed and information on these was shared with participants.
Sustained efforts in promoting preventive healthcare initiatives over a period of 8 years have led to very encouraging results.
3. Safe sanitation for rural secondary schools
In India, open defecation is one of the major reasons for numerous diseases and malnutrition among children. Safe sanitation facility is an important prerequisite of schools. Unavailability of toilet facility is one of the major reasons for girls to drop out of the schools.
During the year, Praj Foundation constructed toilet blocks for boys and girls in 3 secondary schools. So far, such 7 hygienic toilet blocks have been built in the secondary schools in Velhe taluka. Awareness sessions for students and teachers on maintaining the cleanliness were also undertaken. The project benefits 373 girls and 834 boys from these 3 schools.