By Sushmita Malaviya
BAREIILY (Uttar Pradesh): The tedious journey to Bareilly in western Uttar Pradesh is forgotten as warm greetings are exchanged. Formal work protocol is set aside and a riot of colours gives the Invertis campus, the venue, a festive look.
With women dressed in their best – some accompanied by little children – the day-long CMC Ustav was nothing short of a celebration. The event was organised for community mobilisation coordinators (CMCs) who are the frontline workers of UNICEF’s Social Mobilisation Network (SMNet) in Uttar Pradesh to enhance community participation in the polio eradication programme.
A CMC is typically a female who is identified from a “high-risk area” particularly susceptible to poliovirus transmission and belongs to communities where knowledge of the programme is inadequate, resulting in reluctance in getting children vaccinated.
The CMC does not have to work to find a place within the community as she is already a part of it. With this advantage, a CMC tracks the number of children below five years, goes from door-to-door, attends community meetings and addresses concerns and queries of parents and community.
In traditionally “resistant” households, the CMC takes the help of influencers like local religious leaders and prominent citizens to motivate people. It is a lot of hard work and for UNICEF it is important to keep their spirits up.
CMC Utsav group photo
And they were surely up for it. For this one day, all work was set aside. It was an opportunity to spend some time with their peers from other parts of the region and with those who were leading the programme.
UNICEF Uttar Pradesh State Representative Dr. Nimal Hettiaratchy addressed them: “Uttar Pradesh is so close to eradicating polio and we know we can do it. As India emerges as a superpower and an economic power, it is equally important to prevent innocent children from leading a crippled life.”
Equating the CMCs to soldiers who valiantly fight to protect the country’s borders, Dr Hettiaratchy complimented their dedication in spite of difficulties. Inspired by his speech Shahjahanpur, CMC Tazgir Begum requested for permission to speak and said, “We will go back and work with renewed vigour.”
The Bareilly SM Net region comprising Bareilly, Badaun, Pilibhit and Shahjahanpur has more than 600 CMCs
Bareilly District Magistrate M Deoraj in his speech reminded the CMCs present that India accounted for the second highest number of polio cases in the world and Western Uttar Pradesh faced the greatest challenge. “I hope in the forthcoming rounds there will be no resistant households in the region,” he said.
It was their day and the social mobilisers used it to reaffirm their commitment to polio eradication.
Nirmala, a CMC, said that the speeches had inspired her to “work harder”. Shabnam Khan said that she was determined to see the “X” houses (where all children had not been vaccinated) drop in her area.
Inspired by Dr Hettiaratchy’s words, Deepa of Joginawada said, “When he said that India was progressing in all fields but these achievements were being washed away because of the curse of polio, I felt that my life had a meaning. We have to eradicate polio.”