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Sushma Kumari

a Saheli
done by the video, while her role became one of facilitation
to ensure that every woman understood the films message.
Womens interest in the videos made them eager to attend
or nineteen-year-old Sushma Kumari, being a saheli each screening, and group members quickly took
while also studying for her bachelors degree isnt
responsibility for helping with arrangements for each
easy. As a saheli, Sushma Kumari is responsible for screening, such as enclosing a space to make it dark enough
facilitating self-help group meetings in which she educates for the screening.
marginalized women about reproductive health, sanitation,
and childcare. The hardest aspect of her work, she says, is
the frequent travel over bad roads in difficult conditions to
attend the meetings. Travelling alone by bicycle to remote
villages is risky and tiring. Persuading group members to
attend meetings is also challenging, especially during times
of agricultural activity, when planting, weeding, and
harvesting occupy much of the womens time.

Nevertheless, Sushma Kumari remains dedicated to her

duties. I feel that Im making a change, she says. Thats
why Im still a saheli. In her two years as a saheli, she has
seen considerable improvement in the knowledge, practices,
and solidarity of young mothers in the five groups that she
serves. And she has observed improvement in womens and
childrens health when group members adopt the practices
that she promotes. For Sushma Kumari, these changes are
encouraging and rewarding.
March 2014 marked a big change in Sushma Kumaris
work. She was selected not only to screen PCIs
DARSHAN participatory videos in her groups but also to
appear in the video on complementary feeding. Until then,
she had used PCIs Parivartan modules to instruct women
on topics such as family planning, birth preparedness,
newborn care, nutrition, immunization, and sanitation. The
modules combine paper-based visual aids with lectures and
discussion, and each session lasted over two hours.

Sushma Kumari demonstrating complementary feeding

in a DARSHAN video

The Parivartan modules taught women the importance of

preparing for delivery, and the DARSHAN videos have
made them even more aware, Sushma says. Previously,
women were not going for antenatal check-ups (ANC), nor
were they taking iron tablets, nor were they going for health
Through DARSHAN, Sushma Kumari was trained to use a screening on time. But now they are following all of these
compact, battery-powered pico projector and a portable practices.
speaker to screen two, five- to ten-minute participatory
After screening the videos, Sushma Kumari witnessed
videos for her groups every month. She was also taught
several instances of behaviour change among the women in
how to facilitate discussion among the women on the
her groups. For example, Ranjan Devi, the 21-year-old
videos topics, which emphasized the messages of
mother of nine-month-old Raja Kumar, was still only
Parivartans modules, to increase womens knowledge and
breastfeeding him when she moved to her mothers home
to promote their adoption of healthy practices.
in a village where Sushma Kumari worked. Ranjan Devi
Sushma Kumari found disseminating the videos easy and
enjoyable because the primary work of instruction was

Sushma Kumari
a Saheli
was planning to begin complementary feeding when her
son turned 18 months old. But at nine months, Raja Kumar
was weak, often ill, and growing very slowly. Ranjan Devis
mother brought her to a self-help group meeting in which
Sushma Kumari screened the complementary feeding
video. After viewing the video, Ranjan Devi began
complementary feeding, and Raja Kumar soon became
healthy and strong. Ranjan Devi also began washing her
hands with soap at important moments and covering her
drinking water, which she learned from DARSHAN videos.
After viewing the video on birth preparedness, another
group member, Savitri Devi, went to her local anganwadi
center and confronted the auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM)
to learn why the ANM had not given Savitri Devi iron and
folic acid (IFA) tablets. Savitri Devi was four months
pregnant, and she had learned in the birth preparedness
video that IFA tablets would protect her from anemia
during pregnancy. Although the ANM said that she had no
stock of IFA tablets, Savitri Devi could see the tablets in
the ANMs bag under the table. Savitri Devi reached into
the nurses bag, removed the tablets, and ran home.

The DARSHAN videos were particularly important for

challenging harmful traditional beliefs and practices around
pregnancy and delivery. Sushma Kumari gave the example
of Para Devi. When Para Devi brought her baby home
after delivery in a primary health center, Para Devis
mother-in-law wanted to apply warm oil on the babys
umbilical wound, as was the local tradition. But Para Devi
and other group members had learned from a DARSHAN
video that nothing should be applied. They explained this
Para Devis mother-in-law, and nothing was applied on the
The videos change womens behaviour because the
videos are in our language, and because the videos teach a
beneficial behaviour while also explaining the harm that
can happen if the behaviour is not practiced, Sushma

Previously, women were not going for antenatal checkups (ANC), nor were they taking iron tablets,
nor were they going for health screening on time. But now they are following all of these practices.

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