The Supi Centre - helping women meet challenges in the Indian Himalayas

Posted in Charitable Trust on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

We have previously reported on progress with the Supi Centre, a centre for women’s health and empowerment which the Village Ways Charitable Trust is proposing to open in the remote Saryu valley. Now, Prina Patel, an intern from Smith College in Massachusetts, has carried out a series of interviews with the women of Supi village in order to compile a report on the state of women’s health.

Prina was accompanied by Deepa Thakuli, who is the head Asha (accredited social health activist) of Supi and other villages in the surrounding area. Ashas are community health workers who provide women with whatever treatment they are qualified enough to give. This is a daunting task; they act as mentors, consultants, coaches, midwives and nurses. Deepa Thakuli has been a devoted Asha for 22 years. She supervises 8 areas, which includes 22 villages and the few Ashas within them.

The Asha has the most difficult job in the village, not only must she help women at every stage of her pregnancy, but the remoteness of the area in constantly working against her. Deepa’s Asha kit, which usually includes flu, pain and diarrhoea medication, has not been delivered since 2012. Tetanus shots are transported up (a taxi ride and a hike) to Aenam in an ice pack, and must be administered the same day.From Supi, for a pregnant woman to get an ultrasound involves a 2.5km walk followed by 3 hour taxi journey to Bageshwar. The trickiest past of the Asha's job is dealing with the labour itself. If there are complications, it is very rare that a medical team comes up to the village. Normally, a woman either walks or is carried in a chair to the nearest hospital in Kapkot, 20km away.

Overall, Prina found that the women of Supi do not have access to the proper reproductive information and do not have adequate medical care. “The women in Supi are so busy doing their day to day errands and taking care of their family that they have very little time for themselves.”

One of the aims of the Supi Centre is to provide the women of Supi with health information. The Centre will be supported by visiting government doctors. Prina said, “the warmth of the women of Supi will live with me forever…The Supi Centre is awaited anxiously by the ladies of Supi and is a necessity beyond words.”

Ratnamala Kapur, a trustee of the Village Ways Charitable Trust, commented that, “the important point made by Prina's study was that the village women do not consider taking care of their health important. During pregnancy they do not understand why tetanus is given or why eating certain foods during pregnancy is important. The Supi Centre will be a place where the Trust's peer health educators will disseminate health information. The idea is to spread awareness on the importance of health among women. Once this seeps in, our women of Supi village will be responsible and ensure they get the necessary health benefits.”

Prina received funding for her trip through a Praxis program from Smith College. She was assisted by two college peers, Natalie Mills who was the photographer and Shabnam Kapur who acted as translator from Hindi to English. They kindly volunteered their time and funded their entire trip. The Trust wishes to thanks and acknowledge their support. The three women are featured in the image at the top of this blog post.