DAY 1: A Meeting of ICDS functionaries
On our first day at Dhaulpur, at the ICDS Project Office, we chanced upon a gathering of about 60 ICDS functionaries, including AWWs, ANMs and primary school teachers. This was their third day of a workshop, where they had been listening to expert speakers on a range of issues including ayurvedic home remedies, malnutrition, AIDS/HIV issues, education, etc.
The functionaries were drawn mainly from Dhaulpur town and a neighbouring village – Tasimu – and were from diverse backgrounds it seemed. Some appeared well to do, others less so; many were very vocal and outspoken, some not quite. There also seemed to be a representation of various castes including several SCs. On the whole, they participated actively and seemed very well informed of the details of all 6 services of the ICDS scheme and the guidelines, as was evident from the manner in which they finished the supervisors sentences (and on occasions corrected her, in chorus) during the latter’s lecture.
The Supervisors Lecture
We were impressed by the supervisor’s lecture for several reasons. It followed the ICDS guidelines thoroughly and covered all the services in substantial detail and depth. Further she also seemed to have a very good understanding of the larger social context – she particular and frequent emphasis was on gender allocation within the family (feed daughters in law, give women in the family enough time to eat, give adequate quantities, and the right kind of food), the importance of women’s education & literacy in ensuring better childcare (most of this was declared in chorused unison). Similarly it was clear that the supervisor also understood the importance of convergence of (medical and non-medical) services and given that the audience included ANMs as well, the message seemed to us to be particularly appropriate. The supervisor elaborated on the need for sorority building and camaraderie with the mothers through home visits, etc. She urged the AWWs to establish a rapport with new mothers by visiting them when a child is born. She added that the AWWs could then use the opportunity to tell them that the first milk is very good and useful to the babies and perhaps not so much to the “devathas” to who they are typically offered. She also mentioned the importance of weaning food and the need to inform mothers of best practices and learn in turn about their habits.
Among other things the supervisor took some time to stress that the 100 beneficiary target would have to be firmly enforced and beyond that, the AWW would have to say “no” (“pyar se aur prem se”). Alcoholic husbands, twins, if the last child had died would ideally have to be included, as the disadvantaged (poor, SC-ST and BPL)