Saving lives during a Pandemic: Story of Bharati Menaria, an ASHA Worker
Bharati Menaria, 38, hailing from Rajasthan, has been working non-stop for the welfare of pregnant women and new-born children for the past 10 years, at times walking 9-10 kilometres, to fulfil her social responsibilities. She goes from house to house in her community to check on the pregnant women's health and assists in the safe birth of the babies. Even during COVID-19 lockdown, while all others preferred to stay safe inside their own houses, Bharati didn’t hesitate to go beyond her call of duty to support the helpless individuals.
Bharati was born in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra as the 4th child among five kids in her family. Her father had a small hotel business that faced closure due to some challenges. This led the entire family shift from Aurangabad, Mumbai to Udaipur, Rajasthan. She was married at the age of 19 and lives in a joint family with her husband, in-laws and 2 sons.
With the support of her family and one Divakar Ji (a community member), Bharati became a part of the first level community health care workers – Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHA workers – instituted by the government. ASHA workers are commonly the essential link between a remote village and the nearby state's healthcare institutions. Since the time she joined as an ASHA worker, she has played a key role in encouraging pregnant women to choose safer in-hospital deliveries, conducting door-to-door health surveys, and expanding infant immunization.
She has made a difference in her village Seriya by supporting the safe childbirth of over 100 ladies. During the pandemic, she went beyond her regular duty and took proactive steps to support vulnerable people in the community. She has been stitching cloth masks for the local community and distributing ration packets to those in need. She supported the specially-abled members of the community with ration, medical equipment and psychological counselling.
When Bharati realized that many people in her village were facing hunger and did not have masks, she did not wait for instructions from her seniors or NGOs to provide relief. She raised funds for food, got in touch with the local traders, bought the food, prepared ration kits, and distributed them. She took the initiative in informing health department authorities about the situation on the ground. She utilised her sewing abilities to make over 300 masks, which she then donated to the less fortunate in her neighbourhood. She demonstrated both individual initiative and leadership by organising the community to aid the disadvantaged.
Divakar Ji, a community member of Plan India says, “Village Seriya’s ASHA worker Bharati, has shown us many examples of our duty towards our nation and how one must perform these duties. She has supported our community’s neglected, downtrodden and vulnerable members and served as an inspiration to all of us. “
Bharati was also facilitated by the Udaipur district collector’s office for her contributions. Her support and invaluable contribution during the lockdown has been lifesaving.
Bharati Menaria won the Plan India Impact Award 2021 in the ‘Best Accredited Social Health Activist/Auxiliary Nurse Midwife’ category for her exemplary contributions. It was the fourth edition of Plan India Impact Awards to recognise the frontlines as COVID Warriors, Community Volunteers, and service providers. She feels happy to be recognised in her community and motivated to continue to do good.