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
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’.
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.
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)
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.
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
the challenges that you faced?
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
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.
the challenges faced you faced?
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
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.
women have been benefitted so far?
children accessed earmarked funds of the public health care system through
building community awareness of Government schemes
children have been screened for illnesses through pediatric camps held at 1340
Integrated Child Development Scheme centres
your future plans?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Communications Officer, PIB,