Meeting the Fundamental Needs of Women
EASWARAMMA WOMEN'S WELFARE PROJECT
RECOGNISING WOMEN'S CENTRAL role in society, the Easwaramma. Women's Welfare Project-seeks to help in the development of women in a holistic manner by understanding and supporting the different roles which they play in life, be it daughter, mother or breadwinner.
It is a well-known saying, "Give a man bread and you feed him for a day, teach him to farm, and you feed him for life." Along these lines, we felt our sisters in the villages would be better served by the acquisition of skills; the goal being self-support and independence.
Powered by the idea of sustainable development, this philosophy motivated the adoption of a Welfare Project to first address the need for a woman's financial security. Before the Project launch, a survey was conducted in the surrounding villages, identifying the most deprived and impoverished women in the area. Their economic condition and whether they had some basic or no skills were all points taken into consideration before selection for the Project.
A Step towards Making Women Self-reliant
On 19th November 2004, on Ladies Day, Bhagavan officially inaugurated the Easwaramma Women's Welfare Project by unveiling a plaque. On 19th July 2005, the Project facility for these women was graciously inaugurated by Bhagavan within Prasanthi Nilayam. The Project is already producing a large number of products and has started marketing them initially through local outlets in the Ashram. The proceeds of the sales will be spent on remuneration for the women and will also go towards charitable projects in the villages.
Once the products are identified, trainers are engaged to teach the women how to make these items. When they are proficient at their tasks, one or two women in the group are trained to interact with suppliers and customers. In addition to providing women with a skill that is a lifelong source of income, this Project will also have socially beneficial effects. As an income earner, a woman's self- esteem and her respect in society increases. Speaking on women, Swami has said, "All women should be provided with opportunities to become self-reliant".
The Project seeks to translate this into reality. A major step was taken to expand and organise the work of Easwaramma Women's Project when Bhagavan graciously established Easwaramma Women's Welfare Trust on 18th February 2005.
Mother and Child Project
Recently, another dimension has been added to the Easwaramma Women's Welfare Project by initiating Mother and Child Project. This project was started after conducting thorough research at grass root level by visiting a large number of villages as well as by assessing the needs of expecting mothers from Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Puttaparthi. As a result of this, two requirements have been recognised as vital. One is for maternal and infant care, which has given rise to the Mother and Child Project. The central role that the mother plays as "the Guru of the children ... and the upholder of spiritual values" has been emphasised by Swami many a time. Recognising the importance of her health and well-being for society, the Mother and Child Project strives to support her during this crucial stage in her life.
Visits to the General Hospital, Puttaparthi showed that the general health condition of some of the pregnant women coming in for care is a cause for concern. Many come in for deliveries with extremely low haemoglobin levels, far below the international recommended level for delivery. Lack of proper nutrition is one of the main causes for this deficiency.
They often come to the hospital at a very late stage, which significantly increases the chances of complications. Regrettably, some are unable to come because of the considerable journeying distance and / or monetary constraints. Therefore, the Mother and Child Project aims to provide medical care for pregnant mothers and infants in the villages. Bhagavan, in His infinite grace, has provided a fully-equipped ambulance which can be utilised for on-the-spot medical treatment. The two objectives of the Project, medical and educational, are pursued side by side. The medical care is dispensed in a regular manner, over a significant period of time, in keeping with the Project's goal of sustainability. The voluntary team of doctors, nurses and Seva Dal members visit each village throughout the year. Records of all mothers and children are maintained systematically so that their health condition can be monitored on a continuous, long-term basis. These records prove to be invaluable resource for the next team of doctors to assess the follow-up care.
Each mother-to-be receives a Sari and a special kit for mother and baby as a token of Bhagavan's love and blessings. The kit provides the mothers with important supplements such as iron and folic acid. High protein nutritional supplements are also distributed regularly. As for the delivery itself, only emergencies are advised to go to the hospital. The traditional practice of home-deliveries with the central role of Dhais (midwives) is encouraged and made increasingly hygienic with the training of these Dhais and the supply of sterilised kits that assist in safe deliveries.
Once the baby is born, it is welcomed into the world with a fresh set of clothes, regular health check-ups and full immunisation. Immunisation is done for major locally-prevalent diseases including polio, measles, mumps, hepatitis-B and tuberculosis. Nutritional supplements are also regularly given to the infants. In conjunction with the treatment, the doctors conduct educational talks for mothers. Advice is given on a variety of practical matters, i.e., available good foods for pregnancy, post-natal and infant care, and handling of emergency cases.
We envisage a world where women have
equal privileges in every sphere of life, a world in which women have
opportunities to support
themselves, a world in which they are self-reliant and not dependent on
others. We believe that Easwaramma Women's Welfare Project is a step in this
noble direction. One of the Mission statements of Bhagavan Baba is: "I am
attached to the work that I love: To remove the sufferings of the poor and
grant them what they lack". We pray that we all become humble instruments in
His Divine Mission!
sourced: Sanathana Sarathi pgs 381-383 - November 2005.