Renu is an Anganwadi teacher with more than 8 years of experience. Anganwadis are rural mother and child care centres set up by the Indian government around the country. Renu has always been a passionate and committed worker and plays a major role in the Anganwadi. She acts a preschool teacher, nutritionist for pregnant women and new mothers, and even helps younger girls, guiding them in menstrual hygiene management and working to prevent child marriages.
Renu participated in a teacher training programme on hygiene and sanitation awareness conducted by Hope for Children as part of our project in India. As part of this training, she learned about Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), helping her, in her opinion, truly understand the importance of her job.
The preschool has up to 30 children all of whose parents worked in a paper mill which shut down, leaving them to depend on daily wages and live a hand-to-mouth existence. Due to this, the boys and girls are highly neglected, are unable to maintain basic cleanliness and suffer from malnutrition. After taking part in the training programme, Renu realised she needed someone to assist these children, help them develop and maintain good hygiene practices and look after them on a more personal basis. She decided to hire an ayah or a nursing assistant, and because the ayah is not officially appointed, Renu is paying her from her own salary every month.
The training emphasised the necessity of teaching small children sanitation and hygiene principles from early on, and Renu started conducting mock sessions with children to teach them how to wash their hands. She’s confident that she has successfully inculcated a habit which they won’t forget in their lifetimes. Now, she plans on expanding these workshops to ingrain good hygiene and sanitation practices among the children.
During the programme, Renu learned about the importance of maintaining proper hygiene during menstruation. She collected statistics on the adolescent girls in the area and realised that approximately 90 women were in the menstruating age, of which around 20 recently started menstruation. Focusing on these 20 first, she taught them the importance of Menstrual Hygiene Management. She hopes that by working with individual girls, she can plant the seeds of change in menstrual habits among a large part of the population. Before, the practice of wearing soiled clothes was prevalent, using cloth which was seldom clean. Renu realised that using unclean cloth could cause serious infections and other health problems and she tried to impart this knowledge during her training. Fortunately, Renu believes that the work she is doing is having an impact, with girls assuring her that they understand the dangers and will change their habits.
This work done by Renu and the Sanitation and Hygiene project in India is helping to prevent illnesses and enabling children and menstruating girls to attend school, decreasing the rates of absenteeism.