By Vidya Kulkarni
Chandrapur, Maharashtra: Community awareness, generated through the Village Planning Process initiated by UNICEF together with Nehru Yuva Kendra (NYK) in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra is yielding results. The planning process which was carried out in 2004 in Kavadjai village was followed by the formation of a local youth group which took an active role to create awareness on birth registration. As a result, all 32 births in their village in 2005 were registered in time.
Bandu Bobate, a vocal youth group leader, says, ‘through the village planning process we understood the importance of sensitizing the community to access basic health services, especially for women and children. But we realized that the registration of the birth and issuance of the certificate was most important of all”.
One of the outcomes is evident in the numbers of registration of new births. The local Aanganwadi Worker also keeps record of new births as part of her work and tallies them with Gram Panchayat records. This cross checking helped to identify and minimize gaps that existed in previous years.
Elaborating on this seemingly small yet significant change Mr. Harihar Jiraffe, in-charge of NYK said, “many fail to see birth registration as a problem. The national statistics in India points to a 35% gap in the actual number of births and that are being registered, which has obvious implications in the provision of services. Therefore we deliberately discussed this issue along with many other with village people.”
Unlike Kavadjai, which has the Gram Panchayat office in the same village, for Sonurli and Chichboli villages, the local office for birth registration is far away. The distance invariably caused a delay in getting births registered. It was the youth in these villages, who after going through the planning process, decided that something needed to be done to ensure that all births got registered.
They initiated a partnership with local government representatives in the village and worked closely with them to maintain a record of the registered births. The arrangement has proved helpful in improving timely registrations in this group of villages.
The examples of Kavadjai and Chichboli-Sonurli villages demonstrate that overall community awareness in taking responsive measures for registration of births is key. The next step for the youth groups is to start a campaign on the issuance of the certificates in collaboration with the Gram Panchayat and other functionaries. This is because while birth registration takes place, there is still some delay in getting the certificate in hand.