Manju Kumari is an "Anganwadi Worker" or frontline health worker in Bihar, one of India's poorest states. Chosen by her village as their health representative, Manju mobilizes her community to bring their children for routine immunizations, and provides counseling to pregnant women and new mothers about breastfeeding, the importance of vaccinations, hand-washing, and other basic health needs. She also runs a day care center for young children in the community, providing basic education and lunch.
Manju spoke with Impatient Optimists about what motivates her:
How long have you been an Anganwadi Worker?
I have been working as an Anganwadi Worker in Samda village of Saharsa District of Bihar for the last five years. I love working as a social worker here because I feel that all the children of this village are like my own children. I want to protect all pregnant mothers and all children from any health issues.
What do you like most about your job?
I love my work because I wanted to eradicate polio. I don't want anybody to have polio in my area because if polio affects a child the child's life is devastated. That's why it's necessary to vaccinate every child so they can be freed from polio.
What health changes have you seen in your community since becoming a frontline health worker?
Drastic changes have occurred. No one used to do family planning. Many children suffered from polio, many of them died or were not able to walk. But over the last five years that I have been working I have been able to reach to these families through home visits, through meeting them and informing them about the health practices and vaccination. Now there are a lot of changes happening in these communities. People are adopting family planning and coming for vaccination and keeping good hygiene practices. We are trying to do our best and continue to improve our results.
How important are vaccines to improving health in your community?
Immunization is very important. It is like holy water. It will save children from polio, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and measles. If a child gets immunized, then my community gets healthy and becomes healthier. And similarly, my country will also become healthy.
What inspires you to continue doing community health work?
When a hungry child gets fed at my center, I take great pleasure in seeing that that child is full. Also, when a child comes to my center and gets a vaccination on time. Seeing those cheers on the faces of the children brings me great happiness. That's what motivates me.
This post was written by John Murphy, a communications officer and senior writer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.