Health & Hygiene

Community Based Creche

From unhealthy living conditions to exploitative wages, the situation of bidi workers involves violation of their rights and freedoms on many levels. Children of bidi rolling families hardly get the necessary care required for normal growth and development. Due to incomplete coverage of ICDS and inadequate number of Anganwadi Centres in Dhuliyan, many children are deprived of basic services (and entitlements) of the government support system. Through 2 community-based crèches (rent free space provided by residents) Marfat accommodates around 50 children of 2-5 age group, whose mothers are working mainly as bidi rollers.

Through these Creches Marfat
• Keeps children away from hazardous toxic domestic atmosphere for 3 hours everyday
• Promotes healthy and better nutrition practices among the families and caregivers of these children
• Imparts proper hygiene and sanitation habits training to the children, and their families
• Imparts knowledge and technique of child care to parents
• Provides skill and knowhow of low cost nutritious food to parents

The children receive supplementary nutrition (cooked food) brought in from nearest ICDS centre. The Crèches also provide training on Nutrition and Early Childhood Care to the care givers through weekly demonstrative program. The children needing institutional care are referred to the nearest Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre.

Gender Hygiene Programme (2007 -2011)

Surveys carried out by various agencies have shown that more than 90% of women in residing in villages and small towns of West Bengal have no concept of proper menstrual hygiene and care. They still use traditional methods such as torn rags during their periods. Such traditional practices are responsible for high prevalence of Reproductive and Urinary Tract Infections (RTI/UTI) among rural and poor urban women – studies conducted by the state government have shown that around 17% of women in the state suffer from RTI/UTI.

The Gender Hygiene Programme, which is a brainchild of Dr. Dhrubajyoti Ghosh of ERC, ICSSR, aims to put an end to the unhealthy age old practices of rural women (and poor urban women) as far as menstrual hygiene is concerned. The cornerstone of the program is Paushi – a low cost sanitary napkin (Rs. 15 for a pack of 9) – which is produced and distributed by Self Help Groups (SHGs) of rural women. The programme is supported by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of West Bengal under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

Marfat is the nodal NGO responsible for Murshidabad district of West Bengal. It is also a part of the Core Committee of this project. Marfat has been able to motivate and engage 3 SHGs (in Tentulia GP, Dogacchi-Nopara GP of Samsergunje Block and in Polsonda GP of Nabagram Block in Murshidabad district) to produce and distribute Paushi. It has also engaged one women’s SHG as a distributor of Paushi among the poor women of the district town of Berhampore. At present our efforts have been able to create over 450 regular users of Paushi in these 3 GPs and in Dhuliyan Municipality and another 150-180 irregular users amounting to monthly sales of around 600 packets.

As a member of the Core Committee, Marfat’s has assited in designing the communication materials (posters and leaflets) and also providing inputs on management of data related to production and distribution at SHG and nodal NGO level. Marfat has also provided comprehensive training on various aspects of the programme to SHGs and to SMOKUS, the nodal NGO of South Dinajpur district. Recently, the district of Birbhum has been added to Marfat’s area of operation – already 2 SHGs in the district have taken up distributing Paushi among women in their villages.