Four health workers, Dhanalakshmi, Thangamani, Agalya and Chitra went for three days (26th – 28th Aug) to Auroville and National Institute for empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD).

On The first day, they visited Pichandikulam forest – a community-based environmental organisation in Auroville, Villupuram District. The organisation mainly works in the areas of restoration, seedling nursery and women entrepreneurship. The organisation also works on social outreach programmes, wildlife research, etc.

Parvathi Nagarajan, coordinator of women’s entrepreneurship and herbal medicine briefed about on-going projects in Pichandikulam Project.  Currently they work in collaboration with 25 villages in the Kaliveli area. We visited M.Puthupakkam, one among the 25 villages. They run a community Sidha medicine centre in the premises of Govt Primary School M.Puthupakkam. All these medicines are made by a women entrepreneurship project guided by Pichandikulam Forest.

The health workers got hands on experience in using forest resources to make massage oils and other condiments for healthy eating practices, followed by a walk in the Nadukuppam medicinal forest. Nadukkuppam community centre where women from the nearby villages run herbal food entrepreneurship called Meera, supported by Pichandikulam forest. They have demonstrated the preparation of Vallarai (Centella asiatica) Idly podi and Thuthuvalai (Trilobatum) Chutney.

Though most of these plants can be seen in the Nilgiris, procuring these plants will create legal issues. Along with our nursery we can include medical plants; if not at an entrepreneurship scale, health workers can make use of these plants as preventive medicine and first aid. Along with kitchen garden we can promote a medicinal garden as well.

This also helped us to think further about the medical kit (natural medicine) which can be carried by health worker during their field visit.

On the second day, they visited Eco femme to attend a pad-for-pad session on menstrual health and visited their centre at SAARCON campus, Auroville. Pad for pad is a menstrual health education for school going adolescent girls and ‘Pad for Sister’ focus on women. They took the health workers to a Govt. Higher Secondary school where they conducted a session on menstrual health under ‘Pad for Pad’ project. They started the session by explaining about the reproductive system and its parts. Later they spoke about the ovulation cycle, menstrual hygiene, tracking of menstrual cycle and nutrition. They have also informed about different menstrual products available in the market like sanitary pad, cloth pad, tampons and menstrual cups.

The ‘Pad for Pad’ session gave us ideas about how we can integrate menstrual hygiene into the adolescent health program. We will also collect feedback from the community women who are already using cloth pads.

On the third day they made their final visit to National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD).

They met with Dr. J Vijayalekshmi, lecturer (Medical Science. She explained to them about the various kinds of disabilities, listed under the Rights of Person with Disabilities Act (2016). Together they visited various rehabilitation centres and facilities for persons with disabilities according to their age group and severity. They run a model school which admits students from the age group of 0-19 years. This school is also structured according to the age groups and disability type.

The health workers were able get a fair understanding about different types of disabilities and rehabilitative interventions. It would have been more useful if we were able to know about the social entitlements provided government to empowerment people with disabilities.

The three days saw the health workers draw parallels and think about the integral work they do with the indigenous communities in the NBR. Visits like this help them stay motivated and inspires them to be agents of social change. Two new exciting collaboration coming our way from this visit to Auroville.!! 

By Keerthana Mannnayam