Gramin Vikas Sansthan

I Will Make Dal for My Daughter

Premvati of village Meherbankhera has 5 children; her eldest is 12 years old and the youngest 5 months. There is a bare minimum of things in her simple hut. It is obvious she and her husband have to work hard to make ends meet. Their small farm does not grow enough food to last the whole year. So they work as farm labour and get Rs 30 a day. They have to buy two to three quintals of foodgrain every year. Despite such poverty, Premvati's youngest child, her daughter Savitra, is so healthy and robust. That is because Premvati is a keen learner and Shehnaz, the VHW, a caring instructor.

The two together have literally been going by the rulebook. She had her three antenatal check-ups - in the third, fifth and eighth months. She completed her course of 100 IFA tablets and regularly had green leaves available on her farm. She also grew some torai, lauki and tomatoes in her kitchen garden.

So far Savitra has only had her mother's milk. Premvati started breastfeeding within half-an-hour of giving birth to her daughter. "Earlier, like everybody else I too waited for three days before breastfeeding," said Premvati, "then Shehnaz didi would come to us and tell us many useful things." From then on women in this cluster of huts have started breastfeeding their newborns within an hour of childbirth.

Whenever Shehnaz comes for a home visit to monitor the progress of the mother and child all the women gather together to listen to what she has to say. Now they all rattle off the seven recommended behaviours. It is their new mantra. They have also learnt to first wash the vegetables and then chop them. "Otherwise the vitamins get washed away, if you cut and wash vegetables," says Premvati.

When we met Premvati she said soon Savitra would be six months. She will then slowly introduce thin dal and rice water to her diet of mother's milk. Premvati obviously knows well what she has to do. Despite her abject condition she looked very happy, because her child was healthy.