Asha Devi has diligently worked as an ASHA for village Ushari in Siwan district since 2005. Today, the position she enjoys of a well-loved, knowledgable, caring figure in the village.
The travails of a migrant wife
A native of Delhi, Asha Devi moved to the village in 2005 post marriage. The move to Bihar wasn’t easy for newlywed Asha Devi, and it took years for the community to accept her. She recounts, “I got married when I was in the second year of BA. When I came here, I did face hostility from the villagers. Thankfully, my in-laws were supportive. My mother-in-law came along with me for my enrollment as an ASHA. I knew a little about health or what the role of ASHA demanded. Nonetheless, my in-laws thought working would help me adjust with the place and people.”
Overcoming cultural barriers to usher new attitudes and beliefs
Asha Devi has overcome various personal barriers to make a significant contribution to the village’s health standards – a fact testified by her family, villagers, and the CARE India team.
“Since 2005, the overall health of the village has been drastically improved. My in-laws and neighbors can vouch for it. Earlier, basic health care routines such as immunization and polio drops were not common. Awareness was low and that led to many mental barriers. Many felt using any external object would hamper the child’s health.”
Gradually, by pointing out what’s harmful and helpful to villagers, Asha Devi has enabled villagers to change their attitudes towards health, disease, and progress.
“Bukhaar ho jayega, sui nahi lagaenge” (I’ll get a fever if I take an injection), I used to hear that a lot. Alcoholism is a major concern here, and many aren’t in the right frame to take important life decisions. It used to be challenging and scary to interact with such people. Overpopulation was another concern. A family with 9-10 kids wasn’t considered strange.
It’s taken Asha Devi years and painstaking efforts to bring a change. Earlier, many would dismiss her and accuse her of imposing alien concepts on them. Counselling them about the impact of poor health, unsafe pregnancies on the overall quality of life has resulted in new attitudes and aspirations. “People want to go out for work to be able to do so, they wish to improve the village, its education and health. Couples undergo an operation after 2 kids. I share such a rapport that both males and females consult on me on all kids of health-related information – on how to raise new-born kids, how to plan families.”
The fact an openness and trust now exist is a huge accomplishment for her. One of her most notable contributions is lowering the incidence of Kala Azar in the village. ‘Earlier, Kala Azar was rampant in the village. New-borns have lost their lives to this disease. As a result of my ongoing counselling, people have been made aware of signs, symptoms, and precautions. I am always vigilant. If someone has a fever for 15-20 days, I coax the family to take them to the PSU. I make it a point to go with them. There are hardly any cases reported in the last 1-2 years. Apart from Kala Azar, her contributions to Family planning is notable. She has facilitated numerous deliveries, FP operations, PPIUCD and MPAs.
Confidence and character-building with CARE India
Asha Devi states that CARE India training has shaped her personality and made her a well-rounded communicator. “I have been interacting with CARE India for about 4-5 years. Trainings happen, where you meet a lot of people that inspire and make you rethink the work you do. My interaction with Care India has furnished with me sound knowledge and effective tools and techniques to engage with villagers. The key point I picked is sometimes it’s not what you are saying that people reject, its how you are saying it that affects them”
The perks of a meaningful job
“I have grown old, but my position has stayed the same. In this job, there is little scope of taraki nor is the pay lucrative. Other jobs have a fixed pay, this is incentive-based. Sometimes its 5000, sometimes it is 500. In 2005, I wasn’t sure what the role demanded. Neither my family nor I was clear. I thought perhaps it is somewhat a nurse’s role. It has been quite different, and it is challenging, not always rewarding. The thing that makes me happy is the respect and trust that I have earned. What keeps me going is the fact I have played an important change in the village’s well-being, and that’s visible to all” is how Asha Devi sums her valuable contribution to the community.
About the program: The Capacity-building training by CARE India have effectively polished the knowledge and skills of the ASHAs. The training has helped them overcome communication and cultural barriers to become a driver of change in their village.