India: Women Lead Community to Control TB

SILVER SPRING, Md. – With an unemployed husband, dominating in-laws, and the hardships of poverty, Gauri Devi’s life had become miserable.

The stigma of having leucoderma, a chronic skin disease characterized with white patches of skin, added to her woes. Her plight is not considered uncommon, especially in the eastern Indian state of Bihar where Devi resides. Women are expected to lead a subservient life, and often suffer in silence. In response to the suffering experienced by women in this region, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) has developed Community Based Organizations (CBO) for women to attend, and eventually lead-out in.

Devi came to learn about ADRA’s CBO for women through meeting members of one of the women’s groups who were having their regular monthly meeting. They invited Devi to be part of the group, and gradually she became a member of the Ganga Swaym Sahayata Same, a group that encourages women to be financially responsible, and discusses issues concerning personal and family lives. ADRA is using groups like these as platforms to address TB (tuberculosis) related issues, and empowers its members to become TB advocates.

ADRA’s CBO training is part of the “Axshya project”, a USAID-funded initiative aimed to reduce TB-related morbidity and mortality. These trainings are designed to build leadership skills among the groups at the village-level, and increase knowledge of TB so that people within their own communities are able to better take care of their health.

Devi became part of a CBO training program organized by ADRA India in the Dariyapur village of Nawada district. Talking on how the training helped her, Devi said that it helped her to understand issues relating to TB, and that as a woman associated with a CBO training group, she realized that there is much she can do to fight against this disease. Upon completing her training, Devi became aware that she had seen a number of people from her village with signs of TB. Now, having an understanding of the disease, and what steps to take next, Devi was highly motivated to help people suffering from TB, especially since she learned that TB was completely curable and that treatment was being offered free of cost.

Since completing her training in March, 2011, Devi has brought 20 patients to be tested for TB, 17 of whom tested positive. She proudly stated, “I bring patients along with me to the hospital, so that I can personally monitor them. People do not scorn me any longer for my white patches. I feel good that I can help others, the training on TB has really empowered me and other women like me. Initially there were hiccups, but slowly if one gleans courage, together we can stop TB. This is just the beginning.”

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