PART 2: Engaging Conversations over Health

Posted By Suchi Gaur, Ph.D. on September 2, 2017

Labels: Nepal , Women’s and Children’s Health, Health Care Education

Social Mobilizer in Nepal

Suchi Gaur, Ph.D., HOPE’s Communication Specialist for Project HOPE in South-East Asia, visited outlying regions of Nepal where Project HOPE is working to improve health for mothers and children in the most challenging geographic conditions. This is the second of a three-part blog series about her experiences.

Nepal is a country of contrasts.

With beautiful landscapes but poor health indicators, Nepal is working its way toward providing better health care solutions to its people. During my recent visit to the program site in Makwanpur’s Raksirang block area, I was able to engage with participants in Project HOPE’s SPARSH-M program for maternal and child health, including the local health post in-charge, Social Mobilizer and a number of community women.

Meeting with the local health post in-charge of Raksirang VDC, I was able to observe the real impact of the SPARSH-M program. We hiked to the top of a hill where the village was situated, and during our steep climb with no marked pathway, it struck me again and again how difficult it is to mobilize communities to travel down to the health post for availing services. As we walked, he narrated his journey in this area and his engagement with the community post SPARSH-M.

When I got posted to this region, I was very sad.
Severe lack of resources and distance issues
made me wonder every day if I should go back.

“When I got posted to this region, I was very sad,” he recalled. “Severe lack of resources and distance issues made me wonder every day if I should go back. When the social mobilizer from the SPARSH-M team connected with me, I was intrigued. With SPARSH-M, I participated in the capacity building activities and training sessions. The sessions on communications, especially appreciative enquiry and community mobilization helped me a lot to start engaging more effectively with the community. Earlier I used to sit and wait for mothers to come to me but now, I actively go and visit them in their homes as well. SPARSH-M also helped support a mobile skilled birth attendant, and that has immensely helped in improving deliveries in the region.”

When we finally reached the village, everyone greeted him, and then, as part of the peer group activities, we began to engage with mothers and young adolescent girls at a mothers meeting. SPARSH-M started its basic work with reactivating the existing mothers groups by changing the way they are conducted so that they are more participatory.

mothers groups form in Nepal for support

Shankar, the Social Mobilizer, is a key figure in the community. He is responsible for mobilizing communities through dialogue as a way to identify problems and find solutions. He is greeted, welcomed and appreciated by his community for all he does. He is a proud team member of the SPARSH-M program. During my engagements with Shankar, he raised a number of concerns including the belief in superstitions, poor health practices, a lack of adequate resources and the recent change in government.

He raised a number of concerns including the belief in superstitions,
poor health practices, a lack of adequate resources,
and the recent change in government.

“I feel very sad looking at the people and their state,” he said. “The Chepang community has remained secluded from the larger picture for many decades. Through SPARSH, we are trying to address many issues in maternal and neonatal health. But at times, we realize that even issues like sanitation and hygiene, which are not directly linked to the program, need to be addressed to facilitate better health practices. We discuss the harmful effects of early/child marriage because teenage pregnancy and maternal health is a major concern in this area. Through SPARSH, we are trying to solve not only the problem of training the health workers for better service delivery, but also making the community aware so that there is demand for the service.”

SPARSH-M is a step toward better engagement of community as well as better service delivery in this secluded region, so that the gaps in health care can be successfully bridged.

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