Women Sarpanches participating in the PRI Training in Valsad.
By Gurinder Gulati
Gujarat, 27 July 2007: “For the first time, I learnt in detail about various issues concerning child survival and development. I shall now take up the challenge to make my village a child-friendly village”, said Yatinbhai Bhandari, the newly elected young and enthusiastic Sarpanch (Village Head) of Nargol village, Umergaon block in Valsad district.
UNICEF, in partnership with the district administration, organized a series of training programmes to sensitize newly elected Panchayat representatives, including sarpanches, women panches, panchayat secretaries and gram mitras (village volunteers) appointed by the Government. Approximately 600 of them were sensitized on critical issues concerning child survival and development, such as malnutrition, girls’ education, safe water, sanitation and hygiene, etc., and the responsibility they owed to the people to ensure delivery of quality outreach services, in their villages.
During the training, Panchayat members were oriented about the critical role they play in overseeing the delivery of quality services for children at the Anganwadi (Child Care) Centre. As people’s representative, they also needed to ensure the community’s full participation in the recently launched “Mamta Abhiyan”, (Motherhood Campaign), which provides an integrated package of health and nutrition services like growth monitoring, antenatal and postnatal care, immunization, treatment of minor ailments, etc.
The District Development Officer (DDO), Mr I A Vohra, who was present at all the training programmes in the district, appreciated the efforts made by UNICEF to bring about awareness and behaviour change at the family level as well as strengthening the capacity of Government functionaries to deliver quality services to children.
In his address, Mr Vohra informed the elected representatives about the various development schemes available for women and children and appealed to them to make child survival and development as a people’s movement in their village.
Anganwadi Worker telling the mother about the weight of her child in Valsad.
Mr Kishanbhai Patel, member of parliament from Valsad, who also participated in the training, said “These type of orientation workshops should be held regularly so that the local representatives can understand the real issues in a much better way and mobilize the community.” Members of the Legislative Assembly from Kaprada and Umergaon constituencies – Mr Jeetobhai Choudhary and Mr Shankarbhai Varli also addressed the Sarpanchs.
Over the past two years, UNICEF has been working closely with the District Administration and NGO partners in Valsad district to promote key behaviours like exclusive breast feeding, washing hands with soap, girls’ education, and prevention of HIV/AIDS among young people and consumption of iodized salt.
Villagemicro planning exercises have been completed in all the 469 villages to identify issues concerning children. Around 2,000 village volunteers have been trained to create awareness and foster behaviour change at family level and mobilize the community to avail services provided by the frontline workers. All the Health and ICDS personnel have been trained in the “Integrated Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses” (IMNCI).
Asked to express their views about the training, Mr Amrit Bhai, Sarpanch of Barumal village remarked “I am thankful to UNICEF for giving us the opportunity to acquire knowledge about various issues concerning children’s health. This has given me a lot of confidence to talk to the community about key behaviour practices to be followed at family level as well streamlining services at village level”.