Friday, October 7, 2016

Meet the change makers- ‘Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages’

As the peer educators recount their biggest achievement so far was to be able to convince the tobacco retailers in their locality to not sell tobacco products to a person under 18....
By Vindhya| 13-09-2016
How elated I was to see such happy faces at Chattarpur located in the south west district of Delhi, India. Chattarpur is famous for Shree Adya Katyayani Shakti Peeth, popularly known as the Chattarpur temple. The young eyes were full of questions, one of them being; why is this clumsy saree clad woman here? What are we going to talk about today; Leadership, Health, career, future, past, what? Well, let me tell you, these young faces are the peer educators who work/volunteer/intern at Nada India in their free time and help reinforce healthy behaviors in their communities by educating families on non-communicable diseases.

One of the peer educators, Chanda tells me very proudly, “I want to help people. I want to help them change their behavior.” Chanda is an 18 year old Muslim girl who lives with her family in Bapu Camp, an urban slum in south Delhi. Chanda continues with teary eyes, how she used to be a shy scarf clad girl. She could not even cross a road without holding her mother’s hand.Now, as I sit across her I find Chanda sitting very confidently in a bright orange salwar kameez and long danglers. Continuing her story of bringing in change in the community she tells me proudly, how she was able to convince people around her to make healthy choices. Chanda along with eight other peer educators with a similar background regularly visit families and make them or rather talk to them about non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancer and alcohol & tobacco addiction. These peer educators are 15-18 years old students and are part of the same community which makes it easier for them to understand and make a connection with the families.

Before taking up the role of a peer educator they are trained at Nada India center by a team of enthusiastic professionals comprising doctors, counselors, and peer leaders. Along with technical details of these diseases they are also trained in leadership qualities, inter-intra personal skills helping them better communicate and understand their surroundings. They talk to the families in a very simple language and tell them how a simple change in one’s lifestyle can bring about a huge difference in the long run. Simple changes like reducing intake of salt can help regulate one’s blood pressure, consuming tobacco in any form is harmful for your body, and alcohol addiction not only affects the user but is equally harmful for the family. They tell me with a bright smile on their faces how because of them so many people have actually reduced the consumption of alcohol and tobacco; the biggest example being their own family.

Five out of nine peer educators share how their fathers were addicted to alcohol and despite being girls how they managed to make them understand and help them reduce their alcohol consumption. But this journey was or is not so rosy after all. They had or still have bad days when people question them “how does it matter to you?” “It is my life and let it be”. Neha shares, “I was looked upon as if I was wasting my time.” But that didn’t stop me from visiting every family in my locality and spreading awareness. I realized that the problem in the locality is that people are uneducated and unaware; they don’t really know the harmful effects of everyday lifestyles. We really need to educate them and I am ready to do that. Come what may!” Heena is the only girl in her locality who is pursuing a full time course at a college in University of Delhi. She travels to Bawana everyday which takes around two hours from her house and never misses a class. Well I have to say, she has the spark and a perfect example of a role model for change. As the peer educators recount their biggest achievement so far was to be able to convince the tobacco retailers in their locality to not sell tobacco products to a person under 18. Along with creating awareness among the tobacco sellers and they have put up statutory warnings at the nearby shops as part of Nada campaign and regularly visits the place to monitor their activities. Though illegal in India selling tobacco products to a minor is still a cause for concern and takes away the right of a child to live and grow in a healthy environment.

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