Gramin Vikas Sansthan

Zarina Emulates Her Goat

Zarina from village Gunha is the mother of eight children and is expecting her ninth child. Her eldest son got married two years ago. Since Zarina has always been either a pregnant mother or a lactating mother she has been receiving bulgar and oil under CRS' food distribution program for five continuous years now. Zarina's yongest daughter Rahisool, is only two years old and Zarina is nearly full-term pregnant once again; that makes her a beneficiary on two counts. So she gets a double quota every month, that is three kilograms of bulgar and two litres of soya been oil.

When Zarina was pregnant with Rahisool she did not have any check-ups. Nor did she have any iron and folic acid (IFA) tables. Only the ANM (auxiliary nurse midwife) gave her two tetanus toxoid injections. That was nearly three years ago. When the BCC program was launched a year ago, Zarina’s VHW, Shivdulari, worked hard at convincing Zarina to do all the things they were being told to do under the ongoing SMCS programme.

Zarina is very poor; she will hardly buy green leafy vegetable from the market. Shivdulari suggested she have bathua leaves that grow aplenty, like weed, in all the farms. Bathua leaves are highly beneficial and are a winter culinary tradition in northern India. But Zarina did not like to have bathua. So she did not marke it. Shivdulari’s efforts to make her have green leafy vegetables failed.

Shidulari then went for plan B. She roped in Zarina's husband, Jahurey, and explained to him the importance of leafy vegetables. Jahurey would then tell Zarina her felt like having bathua that particular day. Zarina would send her kids to go and pick the leaves from their farm. And the whole family would then have bathua for lunch - like it or not.

With time, however, Zarina came to realise the seriousness of all that Shivdulari told her. She told us she had completed the course of 100 IFA tablets and has had her three check-ups done. She does not go hungry during this pregnancy. She usually keeps wheat flour laddoos with her to be taken as a snack. Even when she goes to work on her farm the carries them with her. This is the first time Zarina is eating so much during a pregnancy.

Earlier she would eat only once a day. "My mother-in-law would curse me if I ate. the child will become weak, she would say. That is what old people believed", said Zarina. "Actually why just older people, even I thought so till madam (pointing to VHW Shidulari) explained to me that the child and the food are not in the same place in the stomach," Zarina added. The older belief was that the more you ate, the less space there would be for the child to grow.

Zarina said she prefers to eat four times a day, as the VHW recommends. That way she does not have to go hungry. Not just that, many other things that Shivdulari tells her and other village women at the monthly sessions make a lot of sense to her. Even her sister-in-law, Rehmatool, who is married in another village, has started following many of Shivdulari's recommendations because they make sense. She also goes to these session with Zarina whenever she is visiting her parents.

But Zarina can only go for these meetings when her daughter-in-law is at home to keep guard. Her problem is that her broken down hut does not have a door. So she can not leave the house unattended otherwise stray dogs will come and eat all the cooked food inside.

Both Zarina and Rehmatool said it was only after they learnt from the VHW that they started breastfeeding the child soon after birth. Earlier both waited for three days and till then, from a soaked piece of cotton wool, fed the child goat's milk, drop by drop. "And see, a goat will feed her kid as soon as it is born," said Zarina. She should know because Zarina breeds goats to make some cash. And like her goat, she too gave breast milk to her daughter soon after she was born.