They say, there’s a Durga in every woman. If that means fearlessness in the face of adversity, multitasking—from time management, to goal setting to community building—or nurturing, even when the outcome isn’t guaranteed, think of Kavita Chauhan.
Every day, for the last four years, she commutes a long distance, from Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh to Nardan Basti, near Gurugram—a poor neighbourhood of narrow lanes, garbage and open drains, inhabited mostly by daily wage earners and casual labours. She goes home to home, connects with the residents of the area, talks to them on the issue of malnutrition, holds community meetings, monitors the growth and height of children below five years, makes sure that infants in the area are registered with the triad of anganwadi, immunisation and community health workers. And she teaches children. She is an anganwadi worker with Matri Sudha Children Resource Centre, Basti Vikas Kendra, based in Lal Kuan’s Nardan Basti.
Teaching and nurturing
A mother of two children, Chauhan enjoys being in the company of children. She started teaching children below age six many years ago, but reaching out to children deprived of access to food and nutrition motivated her to become an anganwadi worker.
It’s not just engaging children with books, chalks and blackboards. Every day Chauhan makes the effort to serve the children nutritious food. “Nutrition is the foremost thing that has to be provided to all the children,” she says. “Without that, there is no future for them.” She monitors children’s growth not just monthly, the recommended protocol, but several times a month for severely malnourished children.
Not an easy journey
It has not been easy. Chauhan joined as an anganwadi worker in 2012 and received a week’s training from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India: on how to fill registers, monitor growth of children and maintain a record of the malnourished ones. Since then, there has been no other training, although the new guidelines and courses have been designed by the government.
More depressing was the low attendance of children in the anganwadi centre. But with day-to-day relationship building in the neighbourhood, things have been changing over the last few years. It was also tough for her to persuade families to take their children for immunisation. She faced enormous disapproval from family elders. “They kept saying that there was no immunisation during their childhood,” she reminisces.
Convincing the grandmothers of the children, to send them to anganwadi centres and avail the necessary healthcare services, was another major challenge for her. She conducted monthly meetings to spread awareness on antenatal check-ups, exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding. And she ensured that the malnourished children were regularly monitored twice a month.
Results came trickling in
Her efforts earned her results. As she took to visiting the homes of pregnant and lactating mothers, to explain the importance of good nutrition, antenatal check-ups, vaccination and immunisation, along with the Matri Sudha team, the attendance of the children increased. And their parents also began involving themselves. On the other hand, as she grappled with the authorities continuously, the quality of mid-day meals also improved. “We also hold regular meetings with women on subjects like breastfeeding at the anganwadi centre,” she says.
Chauhan, a mother of two and a nurturer of many, has been hailed as a “Poshan Champion,” and a “change agent” in Lal Kuan. The Outlook Group has awarded her with a “Nutrition Warrior” award for her contribution.