As for the Men

“Before joining Ek Saath, I saw my wife as an animal with no free will. It never occurred to me to consider her desires. If I wanted sex, I would force her. Now I know that is not right.”

While community health volunteers called ASHAs provide contraceptive counseling and supplies as well as information on child nutrition and immunization to women in Chandoli, gender norms often make it taboo for them to discuss these issues with husbands. As a result, men often lack information about family planning and see little role for themselves within it. Ek Saath provides a space for men to learn from their peers about contraceptive methods available to women, and also about condoms and vasectomies.

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An Abandoned Health Center in Barabanki

The first thing you notice at the Barabanki Community Health Center (CHC) in Uttar Pradesh is its bright pink walls. Pristine and cheerful, they look freshly painted. In fact, everything about this facility looks new. So new that it’s uncanny. No nurses are bustling about, and the waiting rooms are almost empty. Dr. Upendra Kumar, the medical superintendent, explains that this is no accident:

“We have no dedicated staff here. I, and any staff you see, travel from other health centers to serve this community. We have no counselors, no oxygen and any furniture we have is donated. This community health center is not even on the Indian government’s national map of health facilities.”

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A Girls' Club in Lucknow, India

The most dynamic young women in Lucknow, India belong to a special club.

They call themselves Mehak, meaning fragrance. Membership has just one requirement: a passion for improving the status of women and girls in the community. The group is part support group, part health counseling session and part leadership development and mentorship program. Mehak was formed two years ago with support from PAI partner, SAHAYOG, and is facilitated by Shabnam Sheikh—an accredited social health activist, or ASHA—whose two daughters are also members.

Mehak members range in age from 11 to 18 years old. And like a fragrance, their influence has permeated throughout this predominantly Muslim urban community, leaving an unforgettable imprint on their households. In fact, the group has become so important and so respected in its short tenure that some moms now attend the weekly meetings too.

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