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Special Service

Every woman is hero;

 Nari Shakthi Puruskar award winner Dr.Sailakshmi Balijepalli

 

N. Thenappan*  

 Vidhya AR**

The National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC) is mandated to communicate science & technology (S&T) to masses, stimulate scientific and technological temper and coordinate & orchestrate such efforts throughout the country

    I feel in every village you go, woman is the hero. I think we are very powerful and I feel every woman needs to feel proud of herself. We really need to appreciate every woman. We need to be proud of every woman and she is really a hero. I congratulate every woman of this country on the occasion of International Women’s Day says Dr.Sailakshmi Balijepalli winner of Nari Shakthi Puruskar award this year. 

      Speaking about the award, she said “I am really honored. I look at it like that it has been a divine direction for me and even a bigger responsibility to take it forward”.

      Dr Sailakshmi Balijepalli is a practical visionary, a pediatrician by profession, who believes that NGOs can play a concrete role for a robust healthcare system that reduces infant and maternal mortality. She graduated from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.Dr Sailakshmi’s experience as an intern in the public healthcare system and her post-graduate studies in a private hospital opened her eyes to see the health system determinants of infant mortality: shortage of finances and extremely overburdened staff translated into life, or death, for sick and dying babies. Always a strong believer in the philosophy of ‘Oneness’, she has dedicated herself to doing her mite to supplement the public healthcare system, accelerating treatment access, thereby impacting lakhs of sick and dying children, while simultaneously fundraising for underprivileged children in need of urgent medical treatment. Thus, Ekam Foundation was created. ‘Ekam’ in Sanskrit means ‘One’ or ‘Oneness’.

        Ekam has facilitated support for 6500 poor and sick children in hospitalization expenses (1533 children). Through networking with 51 hospitals and 150 pediatricians, donors, and access to Government funds, the families receive invaluable assistance such as funds/concessions for treatments, drugs, hospitalization expenses, surgery lab support, equipment support. A panel of International technical and medical experts provide timely recommendations to help save the child.

        Ekam partners and synergises with National Rural Health Mission, Tamilnadu Health Systems Project (TNHSP), Directorate of Public Health (DPH) and its network of 1600 Primary Health Centres in Tamilnadu, Directorate of Medical Services, Directorate of Medical Education, State Health Department of Tamilnadu, State Family and Welfare Department of Tamilnadu and Intermediate Management of Neonatal and Childhood Illnesses (IMNCI)

Interview

 

Tell us about yourself:

            I am basically a pediatrician. The entire journey has been a transformation from clinical pediatrician to a social worker. Completely Ekam has been a spiritual journey. I look at it complete that way and not as an organization. It has been a wonderful experience of love, abundance and oneness. So that it has been a beautiful journey. Basically a experience of love and compassion.  

 

Family support:

It has been amazing support from my parents and my sisters without that it would have not been possible. Absolute freedom has been given to me and even supporting me financially.

 

What are the challenges that you faced?

Challenges are actually apart from usually raising funds for the operational cost. But challenges have been bringing everyone together. What we want is bringing in communities in society organistaions, private and public, CCP model is what we call. We want it to be a confluence of all multi stake holder approach. So bringing everybody together into one platform and making them realize that everybody is responsible is the biggest challenge. I think we can surely overcome that.

 

What are the services rendered by you?

We work for well being of children and mothers. So well being is a holistic health care model where we are working. We work in community institution building part where we are trying to bring in the confluence of Community Civil Society organizations, public and private sectors at all levels. That is starting with village level, panchayat level, block level, district level by involving almost 13 government departments. Starting from health departments, School departments, NSS, exports and youth welfare, ICDS, other departments like National Child Labour project and involving civil society organization, NGOs and Communities. So that is where a beautiful community institution building we are trying to build it. And apart from that we are also working with the government, National Ruaral Health Mission and we have recruited around 900 nurses for the government. It is completely funded by the government. Our role is identifying the nurses and is to train them. So that they give quality care. They are typical staff nurses.  Apart from that we take care of equipment maintenance for the natal care units, which is also funded by the government. Again we take care of the monitoring part and see that is is done in the right time. We are also working with community building institutions so that they take ownership. Everybody needs to be a part of it. So we work with ICDS. We work with SHG and with the schools. That is one part of it and NSS students. So we do a all lot of awareness campaigns on Maternal and Child health, preventing anemia by kitchen gardening, herbal gardening. We are also working with Ayush which is part of our integrated medicine. So that is how we are working on preventive part of it for maternal and child health care. At the facility level we also tie up with private care institutions. So whenever there is not facilities are not there in the government set up we admit the children in private care and we have helpline for that. So helpline takes care of referrals and see that they get placed in the right centre. So first option would be a government hospital where an odd on facility would be provided or else if the facility is not available then we shift the child to private care where we tie up with the hospitals. They give subsidies to us and we take care of the child. We also do a lot of capacity building programme starting from the nurses to the community and the volunteers. We have an R&D part of it. That is completely action based research. So we do operational research and primilogical l surveys. Wherever there are gaps we try to see that it gets filled in. we have a core team of thirty. Among them 17 are champions in regional offices who are spread across Tamil Nadu. Each regional officer takes care of two districts. His role is he would be playing a building up of microcosm of Ekam at every village. Right now we  have not reached at village level, we are at sort district and block level. We are trying to strengthen that reach out to village level. The idea is we are trying to discuss with the NSS colleges and start each student adopt a village and he can be empowered with knowledge. So that he would work parallel with the nurses and try to strengthen the system in the community.      

    

What are the challenges faced you faced?

The maximum challenges what we face when we go to a village is the cast, gender and the alcoholism. These three are the major factors. It is a very difficult challenge to break down. So the idae is sports, the one thing trying to bring all of them together. We have a youth wing, where Raji, our sports person he is engaging them by bringing all of them together by playing games. So it is a very informal way he is trying to bring them. So  they all come together and what we do we are making like is not you learn this and go there. First we all bring them together by introducing. Then take it forward step by step. The NSS students go to the village and he identifies the gaps in the village and at the same time he meets the youth of the village. He sorts of engages them with sports or games and he comes back. We are trying to create a platform where this youth engages with those students either through a skype or a phone call. Then start discussing with them. Say this week let’s see that all the people in the village wash their hands before they eat. So the youth would get that information and an every youth will be given a responsibility of a 3 to 4 houses for that. So that week they would see that would implement that part in that place. Next week would be let’s clean up today. So sort we are breaking up into very smaller so that it becomes like a game for them and they would also appreciate whoever has been able to do this successful. A sort of an idea we want to transmit it to youth. It is still in the networking and talking to NSS colleges. It not yet reached with.

 

 We are coming up with empowerment of women. We are interacting with TVS on how best we can empower the women. Various activities like waste yarn for factories, sanitary napkin making. Finding a sustainable livelihood that we will identify for the women. Let them get certain income, so that part of the income can for a cooperative model which can be used for education and livelihood.

 

How many women have been benefitted so far?

80,000 children accessed earmarked funds of the public health care system through building community awareness of Government schemes

350,000 children have been screened for illnesses through pediatric camps held at 1340 Integrated Child Development Scheme centres

 

What are your future plans?

Ultimately we want to reach out to every village of India. It would be in phased manner. Right now we are in four states. Chhattisgarh, Uttarkhand and Maharashtra. Kerela government is also inviting us now.

 

Six National Awards (Stree Shakti Puruskar) in the area of women's endeavour and exceptional contribution are conferred each year on International Women's Day – the 8th of March by the Government of India in the names of (i) Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar; (ii) Kannagi; (iii) Mata Jija Bai; (iv) Gaidinliu Zeliang; (v) Rani Lakshmi Bai; and (vi) Rani Rudramma Devi, all iconic and legendary figures from country's history. The first five Stree Shakti Puraskars were instituted in 1999. The Rani Rudramma Devi award was added in 2007.

 

This year Government has decided further to recognize the singular contribution of women in specific areas by way of Nari Shakti Puruskars and eight women are being conferred with this award.

 

The individual awardees of the above Puruskars through their work / activities in betterment of women and society at large, are part of the process vide which, not only is there improvement in the "condition" of women but also an advancement in their "position" through enlarging economic social and political freedom and choices available to them.

 

Dr.Sailakshmi Balijepalli will be receiving Nari Shakthi Puruskar on March 8, 2015 on the occasion of International Women’s day at New Delhi.

*****

  *Media and Communications Officer, PIB, Chennai                                                                                                           **Information Asst, PIB, Chennai  

 

 
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