When 28-year-old Dr. Monalisa Padhee from Sambalpur district of Odisha, after completing her B.Tech in Biotechnology and PhD from The University of South Australia in Adelaide, had the option of choosing to work there or enter the development sector in India, she chose the SBI Youth For India fellowship and joined the Barefoot College NGO as a volunteer in Rajasthan in a heartbeat. She never thought that this step will award her with the most life altering experience ever.
Among the major problems and Diseases that are hindering the growth of India, Anemia is one which is known to all. Despite multiple attempts by the government at improving the condition of anemia in india, the results are disappointing. More than 50 percent of India’s population, majority of them being girls and pregnant women, are anemic. Poor eating habits and the lack of nutrition in women, especially from lower income backgrounds, has made them the major sufferers of this disease. Dr Padhee has always had a keen interest in women’s health and had read extensively about its state in India. But she discovered that the health condition of adolescent girls and women in Ajmer was very bad in comparison to other districts. She noticed that the women did so much of physical work, yet they got only Rotis and chillies to eat.
Barefoot college – an international NGO that was set up in 1972, worked for the benefit of people in areas like health, education, solar and water. Through them, Dr Padhee got opportunities to visit places and she found out that 95% of the girls and women of the 300 she checked, were anemic. Normal Hemoglobin level should range between 12gm/dL, but sadly the average in these villages was 8hm/dL- 6gm/dL. One of main reason for such low levels of hemoglobin was poverty and their unwillingness to spend on fruits and vegetables, which could provide them with the right amount of nutrients. So Barefoot College decided to make ‘Amritchurna’ for children to improve their health. It had all the contents necessary to be consumed by women and girls. She decided to be a part of the project and make the powder tastier. Amritchurna or ‘Takatwala powder’ is made of wheat, Bengal gram, groundnut, sesame seeds and jaggery. All these ingredients are known for having high iron content. The local NGO staff help to make it reach every household, and every doorstep. 100gm is the minimum recommended intake.
Dr.Padhee began giving Takatwala Powder to women last year and it has proved as a good substitute for the otherwise not so tasty iron tablets that were being provided by the government. Telling the media about all the difficulties she faced, she said “In some cases, women don’t understand the need of investing a small amount of money for a product that is going to give them good health results later.”Also, initially she faced a lot of issues in convincing these girls and women to come for the awareness session but conditions are much better now.
Just like Dr Padhee, there are many men and women out there who have devoted their lives towards the welfare of our country and its people. Cheers to these champions of the society!
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