Kerala Anganwadi workers hold online sessions to advise pregnant women

The project – a community based event – which began in 2019 – had to be put on hold during the initial days of the COVID-19 lockdown, but has later been revived through online sessions.
Kerala Anganwadi workers hold online sessions to advise pregnant women
Kerala Anganwadi workers hold online sessions to advise pregnant women
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On the afternoon of May 29, Subha got on a zoom call with four pregnant women in her neighbourhood – Nemom, Thiruvananthapuram. They were going to ask her questions for which Subha had answers printed on a piece of paper. Aswathy asked the first question – what are the precautions she should take to protect herself against COVID-19?

Subha, an Anganwadi worker, was there to answer the questions of all four pregnant women. She told Aswathy about maintaining physical distancing at all times, avoiding unnecessary travel, washing her hands before and after cooking and more.

Listening in on the call were Social Justice Minister of Kerala KK Shailaja, Women and Child Development Department’s Director TV Anupama and Biju Prabhakar IAS among others. The call flagged off a project called Koodeyundu Anganwadikal – Anganwadis are there with you -- by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Department of Kerala.

“We have been implementing this project of Anganwadi workers taking sessions for pregnant women every month since 2019. It’s a community based event (CBE) implemented by the National Nutrition Mission (NNM). But with the lockdown, we had to take a break from the meetings that were held in Anganwadis. It is afterward that a decision was made to have online classes on WhatsApp calls,” says Anupama, Director of WCD.  

Anganwadi workers were earlier provided with smart phones and trained to use them for data collection. “We thought that since they already had smartphones, it could be used for conducting the CBEs in a virtual space,” Anupama adds.

TV Anupama, KK Shailaja and Biju Prabhakar attending a session

The Anganwadi workers were trained and given a list of questions, prepared by the NNM, Kerala chapter. “This is the first in a series of sessions planned, with the target group being pregnant women. In the next phase, that begins on June 18, the sessions would be for lactating women. But pregnant women will also be included in it. And the final phase will be on post-pregnancy,” says Dhanya Sooraj, Consultant Nutritionist at NNM.

There are 3,12,520 pregnant women and 1,86,452 lactating women in the state, who will be beneficiaries of the sessions with 33,115 Anganwadi workers to cater to their needs.

When the monthly sessions happened physically, Anganwadi workers were given Rs 250 each for every session to buy class materials and other supplies. Now the amount is used to recharge their phones for the online sessions.

“One WhatsApp call will be used to connect an Anganwadi worker to four pregnant women. It takes as many calls as needed to cover all the women in the area. This can be difficult since there could be connectivity issues in some areas, especially in tribal regions,” Dhanya adds.

Jency, an Anganwadi worker in Thrikkakara, Ernakulam, has completed her sessions. Jency says that reaching people via phones started earlier when Anganwadi workers made calls to the elderly to conduct a survey on how they were coping with COVID-19. 

“We asked if they were safe, had all the medicines they needed, if there was any difficulty to have food and so on. It is after this that sessions with pregnant women were done on video calls. There are nine pregnant women in my area and through different sessions, I haven spoken to all of them, addressed their concerns. There could be different sorts of questions. Delita, a three-month pregnant woman, wanted to know about Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) through which she could get 6,000 rupees. I filled the forms for her,” Jency adds.

Jency has also been delivering rations as Anganwadi workers in the state have been doing since March, even before the lockdown began, in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “We have also been doing that for pregnant women, who could not come for the ration. In June, we also had ‘praveshanolsavam’ – when children are newly enrolled in Angandwadis. We have had video calls with the kids as well,” she adds.

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