Maternal Health has always been a primary focus of our ministry in India. When it comes to mother and infant care, India suffers some of the steepest mortality rates in the world. Economic status and the location where a woman lives largely determine her ability to access health care during pregnancy. Even in cities where hospitals are available, they are grossly overcrowded and understaffed. Our approach to addressing this issue is to invest in training qualified birth attendants and Indian midwives. By doing this, we increase the force of skilled birth workers to go out to women in their homes, and offer aid where fear and ignorance often overshadow the birth process.
One of these women is Sneha Purti who, from the first moment we met her in 2012, shared with us her passion for helping girls and women in India. Last year, when Rosemary Sherrod led a research team to visit local hospitals and rural midwives, Sneha served as a translator for the interviews. She was greatly impacted by her first exposure to the world of maternal health. During one particular visit she heard stories from a midwife who had been practicing in a village for over 50 years!
Having been steeped in a culture where the profession of midwifery is not honorable, and even considered ‘unclean’ (as it requires the handling of bodily fluids) Sneha was amazed to hear stories of how this midwife had positively impacted multiple generations, guiding mothers safely through the birth process. The ‘Dai’ (Hindi word for ‘midwife') had even successfully handled complex cases that doctors and hospitals had turned away! After the visit Sneha reflected, “She’s 70 years old and once she’s gone, there is no one in her village to carry forward her legacy. We need to have more women who are interested in this profession and think no less of anyone trying to helping to bring a life on earth.”
This visit sparked in Sneha a desire to become equipped in Childbirth Education. She wanted to be able to serve the ladies around her- even friends and family, who knew very little about the reproductive process and their own bodies. “There are so many women in India who have no idea about their own bodies and especially pregnancy. It’s like a nightmare to most of us.” After further conversation and prayer, Sneha left her job as project manager for a construction firm, and began working with us in Gurgaon, India.
Our Maternal Health team organized an online class for Sneha to begin her training, and in January of this year, sent their first educational video to her on the history of maternal health. For the past 15 weeks Sneha has been receiving training videos, as well as completing homework assignments that accompany each subject. She is learning female anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and gaining a working knowledge on labor and delivery. Future topics will include postpartum care, and lactation training.
Sneha has reported that the video approach is extremely effective, and she has felt empowered even from the few short months of study. “I am learning the origin of midwifery and how it’s fading away. I’m also learning about conception, and I have many married friends who have questions, which I have been able to help with what I’ve learned from the classes.”
The development of this curriculum has involved over a half-dozen health care professionals here at G.O.D International. From lesson planning to filming and editing videos, then assigning and grading homework, the program has been done with foresight to the future. We all share Sneha’s dream, “I hope to see a day where we have nurses who are trained by the local midwives and also by the team in the U.S., so that ladies can have safe and clean delivery.”
We believe that through empowering Sneha and others to come, they will assist in changing the fate of many mothers and babies in India.