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The winning idea

A bit belatedly, I continue the story of my trip to India. The main purpose of the visit was to attend the final of the Innovations project on maternal and child health.

 

I attended, as an observer, and was glad that three very competent judges – all from India – were responsible for deciding the winner from three interesting finalists.

The idea 

The winning idea came from a young male student, Daktar Majhi, who is studying to be a teacher. His idea was a simple one at face value: male health workers should be used as part of the health system to improve maternal and newborn child services in remote rural areas.

Safety is an issue 

It may seem simple but very significant divisions exist between male and female roles in Indian society. In the state of Orissa, where Concern has worked over the past decade, the safety and security of female health workers is a real issue. It affects when and where they can provide their services.

Male and female 

Daktar proposed that male health workers could pair with female workers to enable health service delivery at night in remote areas. Male health workers could also raise awareness among men of the importance of changing their behaviour. This could contribute to a reduction in maternal and new born mortality.

Proper services

A special merit award was presented to Dishanti Majhi, a tribal woman from a remote village in Orissa. She works as a road constructor and a gatherer of forest produce. Dishanti described in very moving terms how one of her friends had died in childbirth, a death she felt could have been prevented had proper health services been available on time.

Local languages 

Dishanti’s idea was also simple: she proposed that existing women’s federations and self-help groups could be empowered to monitor the work of community-based health workers and assist them to be more effective. As a simple example, some health workers do not speak the local languages of the tribal communities and the women’s federations could assist in changing that.

What next? 

The next step is that the prize winners will be helped to work out their ideas in more detail and have them tested within the community. This will be done in close partnership with the Ministry of Health in Orissa. The results will be carefully monitored so lessons can be learnt. 

The best ideas are often the simplest ones: we hope these prize winning ideas will translate into real change, helping women and children.