India

Anjana Tiwari

“I have always wanted to serve our society. I consider saving lives my first and foremost duty.”

49-year-old Anjana Tiwari, who has completed two post-graduation degrees, has dedicated her life to the service of pregnant women and young girls.

She is a resident of Bagota, a village in Madhya Pradesh, a state which lies in the heart of India. Anjana is an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) facilitator.

An ASHA worker’s tasks include motivating women to give birth in hospitals, bringing children to immunization clinics, encouraging family planning, treating basic illness and injury with first aid, keeping demographic records and improving village sanitation. She recognizes how crucial it is to ensure access to and availability of healthcare to women and girls at the grassroots level during the pandemic.

Following COVID-19 lockdowns in India, a phenomenon of reverse migration was seen when thousands upon thousands of daily wage laborers left the big cities to return to their villages because of lack of work and means of subsistence.

Anjana recalls two incidents that occurred during this time. She came in contact with two women, both in their seventh month of pregnancy, who had returned from Delhi.

“I immediately advised them to go into isolation for 14 days. I also gave them iron/folic acid tablets for their wellbeing during pregnancy. When I found out that they were not vaccinated against tetanus which is essential during pregnancy, I made sure that the vaccine was administered. We conducted regular check-ups for these two women and I am happy to report that their pregnancies are going well.”

A huge challenge that Anjana faced during her routine visits to the village was that she was not allowed into people’s homes on several occasions because of the fear that as a frontline worker she would put them into quarantine. She found an innovative approach to solve this problem. In some cases, she took the help and support of neighbours to disseminate advice and information to these pregnant women, and sometimes she asked the women to talk to her through their windows so that she could counsel them. “I advise them on how to stay safe and follow precautions. I also tell them to eat nutritious food such as lentils and green vegetables to keep themselves and their baby healthy.”

Even though the work is physically and emotionally exhausting, the fact that she is able to help these women during this critical time is what keeps her motivated to continue with her duties.