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& she died !

On a cold winter morning as I sat in the school waiting for the children from the Taungya and Van Gujjar habitat in the forest areas to come over, we were informed by the forest guard that there had been a death in the village. As I went to the village there was a sense of mourning all around. All the children looked upset and were not willing to travel to school as well. I moved into the village further to know about the incident and was informed of the demise of Vineeta.

Vineeta was suffering from a problem which no one in the community thought was relevant or required immediate attention. The day she died she had extreme blood loss along with outflow of heavy blood clots from her vaginal opening. This led to severe bodily weakness, and suffered untimely death at the hospital where she was taken as an emergency case.

Vineeta (name changed) was a young (28 years) mother to five kids. Her eldest daughter is 16 years of age and the youngest son is 6 years of age. Two years ago she aborted her child due to - 1. economic burden of raising another child and 2. failing health due to an unhealthy uterus and nutrition. She was fighting a continual battle of menstrual and reproductive health over the years. Due to the absence of qualified medical professionals in the forest areas she consulted a quack who performed the abortion and was put on medication. Post abortion onwards she was on her periods on a contiguous basis. Over the year in 2019 she experienced extreme blood loss. As a response to it she was taken to the quack who injected her with medicine along with a bottle of blood. There was no sense of recovery rather she suffered from an acute pain in her lower abdomen with extreme blood loss. As she experienced the pain and suffering she was unable to share much with her husband due to complex social and family relationships (an outcome of poor household economics, patriarchal power relations). A sense of being a burden on the family prevailed in her mind as she struggled to stay alive and be of assistance to the family in day to day life.

Picture Showing adolescent girls doing work

Picture Showing a Van Gujjar women constructing her dera ( House in Gujjari)

For me as a girl not only was it a loss of life but also the reinforcement of the patriarchal system. It is the prevalent distorted development that led to her death. The systems of discrimination based on caste, sex and class which wreak havoc in the society contributed towards denial of access, availability and affordability of primary health care services to communities (living in forest areas and innumerable others). The health of a woman is never a priority, especially the issues of menstrual health are taboo and suppressed in all spaces in our society.

Why does a women fail to discuss the issue with her husband or other family members? Is death the only solution? A woman is expected to bear the pain, she is expected to be the most powerful when it comes to accepting the problems but is tagged as the least powerful in the social structure of the society.

Samanta responds

Samanta is trying to work with the women and adolescent in order to devise solutions on the issues of health ranging from menstrual to maternal health. The 3 prong strategy engages women, girls and children. We intend to work towards contextual solutions as per the limited resources. Our efforts include 1. Conducting sessions (reflections, learning and sharing) with collectives of women and girls, 2. Develop a model health chart with the school going child as the focus, 3. Engage women and girls to develop low cost solutions as per the local ecosystem.

Picture Showing a Gujjar Girl learning numbers

We look forward to engaging, collaborating and learning from others !

The article is written by Tanya Khera (Co Founder, Samanta Foundation)

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