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Female Awareness

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  • Pages: 14
  • Word count: 3435
  • Category: Abortion

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The Context and the problem and the decisions taken to start the initiative:
Following the Census 2001 report that the sex ratio had been declining in the entire State of Punjab at an alarming speed as compared to the previous census held in 1991 and that in the Nawanshahr district (afterwards rechristened as Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar in 2005), it stood at just 808 (In other districts of the state,the sex ratio was 797 in district Gurdaspur, 793 in Amritsar, 782 in Kapurthala, 817 in Jalandhar, 815 in Hoshiarpur, 808 in Nawanshahr, 793 in Ropar, 757 in Fatehgarh Sahib, 815 in Ludhiana, 818 in Moga, 822 in Ferozepur, 814 in Mukatsar, 820 in Faridkot, 795 in Bathinda, 783 in Mansa, 779 in Sangrur, 777 in Patiala and 793 in whole of Punjab) , the then deputy commissioner Krishan Kumar in May 2005 decided to launch an initiative to effectively check the menace with the help of government departments and NGOs. Initially, departmental machinery in the departments of Child Development and Health were identified to intensify measures against clinics indulging in the illegal sex determination tests.

However, as initial results indicated that efforts were not only inadequate but also temporary and personality oriented ones, in order to give some sustainability to the drive, it was thought proper to involve all NGOs in the district in the process. With this idea, a federation of NGOs named UPKAR Coordination Society was constituted and registered under the appropriate law. Deputy Commissioner was made ex-officio Chief Pattern of the Federation. Each of 35 NGOs of the federation were assigned particular areas of their choice to work in. The block level and village level committees of the Upkar Coordination Society were also formed and in case, district level society intended to organize a function or rally in a village, village level committee was made responsible for the successful organisation of the event.

This was done with a view to strengthening the societies and the Federation at the grass root levels, besides ensuring sustainability of the campaign at large. It was also meant to ensure the participation of the community in campaigns against social evils in large numbers. (All this has resulted in registering of over 4000 members with the Upkar Coordination Society while special campaigns continue to be launched from time to time to enroll more and more people particularly adults and young couples with the Society to give a fillip to its various movements). * On the enforcement front, all district heads of various departments i.e. SSP, Civil Surgeon, DDPO, DSSO, DEO and NGOs Coordination Society under the command of Deputy Commissioner were involved in decisions taken to enforce the laws to check this social menace. So it can be said that Awareness Campaigns and Enforcement measures comprised the two-pronged strategy of what has now famously been termed the “Nawanshahr Model” throughout the country to check the menace of female foeticide. Registration of Federation of NGOs

* Setting the Scene( Pre-initiative activities):
* Block
To begin with, block level public meetings were held wherein all concerned including village Sarpanches, Lamberdars (village headman) , Chowkidars, Child Development workers ( Anganwari workers), ANMs and LHVs of health department participated. Along with them, other local populace was also made to participate. During such public meetings, cultural programmes and Nukar Nataks highlighting the menace of female foeticide and its future implication on the Society were arranged. During these meetings, all senior officers of the administration i.e. Child Development Department chief, Civil Surgeon and Deputy Commissioner used to address and appeal to the public in general that they should not indulge in female foeticide. Demi-official letters by the Deputy Commissioner to the sarpanches requesting them to ensure that no case of female foeticide took place in their area followed these meetings. * After having block level meetings, district level meeting was held wherein all Municipal Committees’ Councillors and other social activists, Medical practitioners participated. In all these meetings, cultural programme were also arranged to spread the anti-foeticide message. * Broadly speaking, the entire programme being run in the district could be divided into three main tasks:

1. Medical Audit
2.Social Audit
3. Awareness Campaign
Flow chart for the campaign against female foeticide is also re-produced below :-

Flow Chart For Compaign against Female Foeticide

Monitoring of F-Forms
Recording of Pregnant Mothers & other Details
During campaign, it was noted that survey of pregnant mothers was not perhaps being conducted in a fair and sincere manner. As a result, there used to be some pressure/ inclination on the part of pregnant mothers who normally approach the clinics for sex determination. Since medical science has proved that most likely period for sex determination of a foetus is between 3rd month of pregnancy to 5th month of pregnancy, it was decided to monitor such pregnant mothers on a continuous basis with the help of computer software and prepare the requisite data including telephone number of pregnant mothers and in case they do not have telephone number, telephone number of the village Sarpanch. All these details i.e. details of the previous children, age of the lady, their telephone number, visit of ANMs were made part of the data and entered into the computer.

After this, a list was generated which gave details of mothers having pregnancy from 3rd to 5th month. A lady operator in D.C. office thereafter give a telephone ring to these pregnant mothers to find out if there was any problem to her or the foetus to leave an invisible impact on the minds of the pregnant women as well as on their in-laws that somebody including the DC himself was monitoring and watching them. It certainly discouraged them to not to go for sex determination test and then abortion subsequently. Besides, the computer software also generated a list of mothers whose expected date of delivery had already crossed. Enquiries through telephone as to whether the baby boy or a girl was born were also made subsequently. In case there is none, investigations were conducted as to where the foetus had gone and under what circumstances it was aborted. This whole process facilitated better enforcement against the persons involved in female foeticide. A copy of the screen of the software and subsequent report was also generated . Medical Audit of scanning centres

With a view to intensify the enforcement measures further, it was felt appropriate that scanning centres and clinics needed to be monitored more regularly. All scanning centres were required to furnish the details of all scans conducted by them during a particular month, to the Civil Surgeon. However, scanning centres on one excuse or the other did not provide this information to the Civil Surgeon. Moreover, it became difficult for Civil Surgeon also to monitor all scanning centres manually. To analyse the data submitted by the scanning centres in a more effective manner, software was prepared at Suwidha Centre, Nawanshahr and all the data collected from scanning centres on 5th of every month was fed in the computer. These medical audit reports were subsequently generated and necessary disciplinary action was taken against scanning centres that were found indulging in mal- practice or did not comply with the rules. Thus, the campaign from both sides i.e. recording of data on pregnant mother (social audit) from the society’s side and medical audit of scanning centres certainly helped to bring down the cases of female foeticide in the district. Monitoring of survey by Senior Officers

In addition, surveys were conducted in the villages where all district officers including D.C. remained present. It also worked as a deterrent among the people indulging in this menace. Villages (around 25 per cent) were identified where sex ratio was exceptionally poor. Special attention was paid to these villages. Efforts were also made to know the reasons as to why sex ratio was low in these villages. To make people aware further, it was decided that these villages should be taken up for the detailed survey where senior officers i.e. Deputy Commissioner, other district heads including Civil Surgeon remained present. During these meetings, all the members of the Upkar Coordination Society also remained present along with the village panchayat and groups were formed to conduct a detailed survey in these villages. Rallies were organized simultaneously in these villages and informal meetings were also held by Upkar Coordination Society with the village ladies. These rallies and awareness campaign were further followed by holding of cultural programmes in the evening in these villages.

The visit of D.C. and other senior officers in these villages enforced deterrence among the people indulging in sex determination on one hand whereas it also put administrative pressure on anganwari workers and ANMs who invariably did not collect data correctly on the other. The information collected during these campaigns was invariably compared with data collected by ANMs and anganwari workers and if there were discrepancies , the same were put to the anganwari workrs by the ANMs on the spot to enforce them to identify pregnant mothers and sex of the new born babies correctly. Identifying midwives, ANMs, Nurses and other informal workers One big advantage of holding these campaigns in such villages was to identify the basic reason for the poor sex ratio in these villages. It was surprising to know that sex ratio in a particular village was as low as 411 whereas the same was almost 900 or above in a adjoining village. Minute examination of the survey ultimately led to the conclusion that there had been a nexus between ANMs/Nurses and medical practitioners. The ANMs took the young couples to the scanning centres and subsequently arranged for the termination of female foetus, it was found.

By doing so, scanning centres and medical practitioners were put to least risk and at the same time they were in a position to charge heavy amounts from the young couples. Medical practitioners reportedly shared certain amount with the conniving ANMs. Not only this, medical practitioners were also found to have appointed Public Relations Officers(PROs) or “touts” who were supposed to be in touch with all ANMs/ Nurses and request that such ANMs should bring maximum cases to their employers. With a view to break this nexus, all midwives /ANMs / Nurses were identified and their telephone numbers were also recorded. Separate seminars were also organized for them and they were strongly warned and advised to restrain themselves else cases would be registered against them. At the same time, midwives were also advised to inform Deputy Commissioner/ Civil Surgeon at a toll free telephone number 555501 about such couples who came to them for sex determination followed by abortion, if need be. This certainly helped the administration to bring some of the midwives / ANMs on the Govt. side to enable it (the administration) to curb the practice of sex determination and female foeticide in the district. Adoption of villages by all departmental Officers

In addition to it, it was observed that there were 65 departments in the Govt in the district and some of them really did not have adequate work during most part of the year. However, the Govt. needed to pay such employees. To utilize their services to remove social evil from the society, it was considered appropriate to allot 5 villages each to all such officers. Every officer was requested to adopt 5 such contiguous villages where he/she would not only monitor sex ratio but would also take the responsibilities to ensure that all children went to schools. This also ensured discipline and punctuality of all Govt. institutions in these villages. Such officers were authorized to inspect schools, veterinary hospitals and such other institutions in these villages. These officers also listened to the problem of the villagers regarding drinking water supply, power supply or any other issue of public importance. These officers, on the one hand worked as a link between the villagers and district administration and on the other they were in a position to develop personal rapport with the villagers. Mobilization of young students and meeting with D.C everyday

It was also observed that it was the youth particular in the age below 25 years who were likely to be affected to a larger extent by the social evil of female foeticide and drug addiction. It was therefore thought appropriate to develop direct rapport with such youths. The other objective was to remove the fears among youths/ general public about the Govt. offices such as Deputy Commissioner Office. Therefore, to start with , all college and school going (senior secondary) students in the district were invited to D.C.Office to have a meeting with D.C. every day from 11.00 AM to 11.30 AM. Normally 40 students, largely girls participated in such meetings. During such visits, all D.C. Office as well as single window delivery system i.e. Suwidha Centre were introduced to such youths. During their meeting, they were advised that, in case they happened to have some work with the D.C.

Office, they could easily come to Suwidha Centre without any hesitation e.g. for getting driving licenses, arms licenses, birth certificates , affidavits, depositing electricity and telephone bills, passports, marriage certificates, copies of court cases, copy of revenue record, Scheduled caste/ Backward certificates etc. While the above said objective was secondary , primary objective of inviting such youths to the D.C.office was just to introduce them to the problem of female foeticide and drug addiction during half an hour interaction with D.C. An appeal was also made to the girls students that Society had given them an opportunity to take birth as girl and women and is therefore it was their duty now to protect another girl. The youth wass also informed about the alarming trend of falling sex ratio in the State. They were made aware that if same trend continued, it was not very far when the society would not find any woman/ girl on the earth. This in turn would have the potential of endangering the very existence of human beings on earth, the young minds were impressed upon. It was surprising to know that many of the students were not even aware about the present trend of this child sex ratio.

Further, during these visits of students, a data base was also prepared of all the students and same was entered in a computer. Students were also requested to provide their telephone numbers. It helped Upkar Coordination Society as well as D.C. office to communicate with these students in future. Upkar Coordination Society had offered to give Rs. 100/- to all the students in case they identified pregnant mothers in villages and informed it to the D.C. office to further register it with Software installed there. Good response was received from such students. It became easy even for the D.C. to talk to such students once in a while. The students, when they got a call from D.C. office in this manner, not only got surprised but felt encouraged to devote some time towards social activities. Personal letters to all lady Sarpanchs

Memoran-dum by young girls to clinics
To make people aware further about the menace of female foeticide, Upkar Coordination Society devised another method of mobilizing the remaining young girls. Such girls were made to submit memorandum to the various hospitals and offices and requested them to stop the menace of sex determination and female foeticide. These girls normally put some clothes around their mouths so as to attract due attention of the public as well as to enable the girls not to fall into arguments with any of the clinics/ doctors.

Personal letters in the form of post cards were also sent to all the lady sarpanches of the villages as well as wives of the male sarpanches by Upkar Coordination Society and wife of D.C. This had really elicited good response from the villagers, particular from the ladies and it helped generating a social campaign against evil of female foeticide. Organizing Rallies on Scooters & Cars

Still further, rallies on cycles and scooters were organized on appropriate occasions by the Upkar Coordination Society. Such rallies were organized on various occasions such as martyrdom day of Sardar Bhagat Singh. People from all age groups invariably participated in such rallies. intensivecompaignthrough mobile vehicles.

To intensify the campaign further, Upkar Coordination Society took five vehicles on rent, each for one block of the district. Recorded messages of popular singers like Hans Raj Hans and other famous personalities were played on such vehicles. Literature and other relevant material about Upkar Coordination Society as well as menace of female foeticide were circulated through such vehicles. Each of the vehicles could easily accommodate 5 to 6 persons and cover about 10 villages every day. Thus, all the five vehicles covered about 50 villages every day and completed their four week campaign on 21st May, 2006. Sh. Rajan Kashup, IAS, Chief Information Commissioner, Punjab had flagged of these vehicles from Balachaur in district Nawanshahr on 26th April, 2006. Organizing Langers on main roads

Mourning by society
To carry the campaign still further , Upkar Coordination Society thought of an idea of mourning of baby girl in case an abortion took place preceeded by sex determination. Activists of Upkar Coordination Society visited such villages where cases of female foeticide came to their notice. Village people also accompanied the members of the Society on such occasions. Such mournings and dharnas were also staged outside the clinics who had been indulging in sex determination and then abortion. Appeal to the religious leaders

Besides, young girls and members of Upkar Coordination Society also staged organizing langers on the main roads and made appeals to the general public to save the girl child. The religious melas/ fairs and such social occasions where sufficient public gatherings took place were also identified to launch anti-foeticide campaigns by the Upkar Coordination Society. Appeals to the religious leaders were also made by submitting them memorandums who in turn made appeals to the public in general to restrain them from indulging in the twin evils of female foeticide and drug addiction. Naming of new born baby girls by D.C.

Functions were also organized every month at district headquarters where all new borne baby girls taking birth in a particular month were honoured along with their parents by the Deputy Commissioner. All these girls were named after only one name so that they could identify themselves later in their lives when they grew up. Names like “Navjot”, “Harsimran” and “Jaspreet” were given in three such functions organized at district level. As a result of such continuous measures , the sex ratio in 77 villages out of total 475 in the district of new born babies ultimately crossed 900 and in some cases it even reached 1000. All these villages panchayats were honored on 8th March, 2006 on the International Women Day by Mrs. Anjali Bhawra , IAS, Commissioner, Patiala Division, Patiala. Reports in this regard were also published in almost all National dailies on the front pages. Out Look magazine, a weekly magazine, carried a cover page story of district Nawanshahr on its issue of February 27, 2006. * Outcome and Impact:

* As a result of continuous enforcement & awareness measures, the sex ratio in 0-6 Yrs of age group has increased by 71 points till date where as 40 point increase was witnessed in general population ( as per census 2011) in the district. As many as 20 villages panchayats which showed a very high sex ratio were honoured on the Girls Lohri Functions held on 8.12.2012 & 9/1/2013. * It needs to be mentioned here that observations and action plans continue to be prepared for the areas in the district where sex ratio is still down. * Lessons Learnt:

* The DOs:-
Traditional awareness tools are more effective for awareness. Workshops, seminars for enforcement & NGOs are very much required. Festivals provides good platform for the improvement of sex ratio. Highlight the women role and achievements in the public as a large by honouring them on different occasions i.e. International women day, Girls Lohri, by Independence & Republic Day functions. Provide financial help to the needy girls students.

Involve college students in awareness campaigns.
Organise sting operations to check scanning centres
* DONTs.
* Avoid those activities which are not in favour of women community. Future Plans: How are the lessons learnt going to be taken care of in the future? The implications of the case study/best practice for replication/scaling up in your and other States could also be spelt out

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