Yamunabai is a 60-year-old Village Health Worker (VHW) in the Project Village of Ghodegaon, where she lives together with her husband. She has three daughters and one son. She has been to school only up to third grade. We interviewed Yamunabai to find out more her experience as a VHW and, more specifically, about how she views the situation of women in her village.
Yamunabai was one of CRHP’s first Village Health Workers. She started in 1974 and has been a VHW for 44 years now. She decided to become a VHW after Mabelle Arole, one of CRHP’s founders, spoke with her and explained what the job entailed.
When asked about the status of women in her village, Yamunabai explains that in the past, women did not have equal rights. Yamunabai herself, for instance, was treated badly by her mother-in-law and had no freedom. Nowadays, it is much better. Women own more land, often have jobs and their own money, and are respected by the community. Nevertheless, significant challenges to the health and rights of women still persist. Some of the main issues, according to Yamunabai, include women’s lack of decision-making power, practicing open defecation, and poor nutrition. Many women also are not aware about their rights regarding dowry and gender-based violence.
As a VHW, Yamunabai has done a lot to help improve the health and rights of girls and women in her community throughout the last forty plus years. She has treated women with tuberculosis, leprosy, HIV, diabetes, hypertension and mental illness, among other diseases, and has saved the lives of several people who were bitten by snakes. She has also delivered more than 700 babies. All of the women Yamunabai supported during labor were able to have safe deliveries, as women with high-risk pregnancies were referred to the hospital where she could be assisted by nurses and doctors on staff. She even delivered the current head of the local, village government.
Being a VHW has had a large positive impact on Yamunabai’s life. When she had only just started as a VHW, Yamunabai recounts, people used to say: “What does she know? She is not literate; she is not a doctor.” Taking care of the sick in her village, promoting children’s health, and delivering babies, she slowly started gained people’s trust and respect. It has always helped that her work in the villages is supported by Farmers’ Clubs, Women’s Groups, and the Mobile Health Team at CRHP.
When asked what advice she would give to young women growing up in India right now, Yamunabai lists several things they should do: get a good education, inform themselves about government welfare schemes, learn self-defense, be respectful to others, and earn some of their own money before getting married. Most importantly though, young women need to take care of their health. Only if they are healthy can they take proper care of their families.