In Jodhpur (popularly known as Marwar) district of Rajasthan, most of the villages are scattered in the Thar desert. For poor women, who have limited decision-making power, health care is an economic and community issue. Based on the core belief that only healthy women have the strength to create change in their lives and in their communities, the Veerni project was initiated in the villages of Jodhpur in 1993 in collaboration with Parivar Sewa Sanstha, Delhi, and is administered by local NGO Rajdadiji Badan Kanwar Trust under the aegis of the Maharaja Gaj Singh II of the Jodhpur from 1999. It is funded by the non profit organisation – Global Foundation for Humanity (GFH). The mission of the project is to improve the quality of life in rural areas of Jodhpur by promoting reproductive health services; income generating services; education and mobilization of women.
Seventeen villages scattered on the Ajmer and Barmer route up to 50 km from Jodhpur are under the Veerni project, covering a population of 20,961. After a baseline survey of each adopted village, a written agreement was made with the local Panchayat Raj Institution (PRI) members. A team called the Veerni team provides services in the villages. The Veerni team consists of a doctor, a social worker, two nurses, two women field educators and one male health educator. Service providers are given training in consumer friendly skills and practices to improve quality of services delivered. Local village women, (called Veernis) are selected based on self motivation to work in a community, effective leadership skill and their ability to read and write. They are trained at their resource centres for 10 days to serve as health promoters. They act as an informed and skilful information disseminator at the community level, thus creating the demand for services. For their services they are paid an honorarium (INR 675).
(i) Health services: The Veerni team is mobile and visits the villages a minimum of twice a week in rotation. Comprehensive reproductive health care, pre and postnatal care, treatment of anaemia, family planning, treatment of infections, childcare, immunization services etc are provided by the team. Health camps (eg eye, skin and venereal diseases, paediatric) are organised from time to time.
(ii) Health Education: Village level meetings on hygiene, nutrition, domestic violence, girls education, women’s rights and the problem of addiction are conducted from time to time.
(iii) Nutrition Programme: A nutritionist counsels mothers on better feeding practices for their children. They demonstrate how to cook local foods safely and nutritionally.
Besides the health services, women and girls are trained in sewing to support themselves through income generation.
[ Base line results not available]
(2003-04)- Infant Mortality Rate of villages under Veerni project- 52.43 per 1000 live births. This compares to an overall rate for India (rural) of 67 per 1000 live births and Rajasthan state of 79 per 1000 live births.
Empowering women through education and income generating activities not only helps them to decide better for herself, but also for her family and a healthy community as a whole. Interactive village participation, listening, learning and sharing information are the keys to success. But the scheme needs to find ways for the activities to become self-sustainable.