Over the last year, Shama’s efforts have contributed to convince 150 families to vaccinate their children after years of resistance to vaccines. She is positive that by the end of year, the remaining 65 families in her village will say yes to immunization.
“My real earning is to see every kid grow healthy and blessings I get from parents in return,” says Shama.
Text: Neha Khator
Photo Credit - UNICEFIndia/2014/Sumit Dayal
MORADABAD, India, 28 April, 2014 - It’s 12.30 P.M and the sun is beating down this desolate road in Pakbara village (Moradabad district) in Uttar Pradesh - India’s most populous state. Ignoring the heat and dry air, Shama goes from door-to-door convincing parents to vaccinate their children.
Shama is a Community Mobilization Coordinator (CMC), a grass root worker who, along with other CMCs and health workers, is playing a pivotal role in making sure every child in India is immunized.
As a CMC, Shama looks after 500 houses in the Muslim-dominated village of Pakbara. She spends six hours a day conducting door-to-door awareness programmes about vaccination, health, hygiene and breastfeeding in a population that once looked at vaccination “as haram (forbidden or proscribed by Islamic law) and evil”.
“Initially, people used to shut the door on my face, abuse me or even throw me out of their houses. I used to feel sad but I never gave up,” explains Shama.
“Everyone here thought that vaccines would make their kids impotent. Moreover, due to lack of awareness, the temporary side-effects of vaccines like fever and swollen thighs were misconstrued,” she adds
Mother meetings were conducted. Local doctors, Gram Pradhan (village elders) and imams were also mobilized by Shama to lend their support in breaking myths and fear of vaccines.
Shama and 13 other CMCs in Pakbara village alone have slowly and gradually reduced the huge gap distance between the government’s immunization targets and actual figures. In this village, from 215 families who refused vaccination in March, 2013, the figure has come down to 65 this March.
A place historically famous for its brass industry, casually called as the “pital nagari”, (Brass city) came to be known as the “polio nagari”(Polio city). But today, in Shama’s field area, there are zero polio refusal families and only five families who refuse routine vaccination.
Though she joined as a CMC on 18 January, 2010, to help her mother financially after her father’s death, she can’t recall the date when she stopped being just a daughter, a member of her family, to become a masi or bua (aunt) of all the 311 kids in her village.
“They are all my family now. I have built great relationships over the years and I am very proud of being able to sit in anyone’s house, whenever I want,” she points out, while adding that she gets a lot in return for what she does: “My her real earning is “seeing every kid grow healthy and the dua, salaam (blessing) I get from parents in return.”