As I look for words to describe the year 2013-14, I think of ‘exciting’ and ‘purposeful’. These two words capture the essence of the year gone by. It has, indeed, been a very exciting year. Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon – I, A Woman, Can Achieve Anything, the transmedia serial that we had been working on for a year took off. And what a takeoff it was! Telecast nationally by Doordarshan, our partner in the initiative, it became the third most watched show during its time slot within a few weeks of its launch on March 8, 2014. By the time of writing this, Doordarshan had begun telecasting it as a special show from its Bihar Kendra and to over 50 countries through DD India. Our national broadcaster, All India Radio (AIR), joined in with slots on Vividh Bharati, FM Gold, FM Rainbow and on all local stations.
PFI’s celebrity champions, Sharmila Tagore and Soha Ali Khan, endorsed the serial as a “must watch”. Within weeks people were connecting to us through the Interactive Voice Recording System (IVRS), telling us how much they liked the serial. School going girls shared their dreams. One told us she wants to be the President of India. Young men called in to say how much they appreciated the show. The young women expressed themselves, some hesitatingly, others with great confidence about their own personal experiences. The older women called in too, sharing with us their views on the serial and what they would like to see. Seeing a strong protagonist in Dr Sneha had given them the encouragement to express themselves, and they did with verve and courage.
Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon has been a collective effort of many individuals and organisations led by PFI towards a common goal: the empowerment of women, and with it better health for themselves and their families. It addresses practices such as sex selection, early marriage, early and repeated pregnancies, under-nutrition of girls, and issues of family planning, reproductive and child health, domestic violence, and sensitisation of boys.
Our work over decades in the field of health had shown us how closely linked health outcomes are to attitudes and behaviours. Changing attitudes, and with it behavior patterns made firm by generations and cultures, is a tough job, indeed. At the base of it all is society’s neglect, disregard and ill treatment of its girls, a major reason for the state of India’s health, contributing to the high levels of infant and maternal deaths, and anemia and malnourishment of its people. We set out to use the positive deviance approach which states that solutions to a social problem are available in the society itself. They are available with a select few of the society’s members, who despite being in the same cultural and social environment, unlike the majority rise above it, taking decisions that positively impact their lives. And under the guidance of Prof Arvind Singhal, the master of positive deviance and entertainment education, we set about discovering and capturing positive deviant stories from the field. Noted film producer and director Feroz Abbas Khan, joined us. He is the creative force behind the serial. Our Advisory Council member, Dr Ajai Chowdhry, guided the team towards bringing the serial out across different media.
We are indebted to DFID for joining us in our dream and coming forward to fund the first 52 episodes. We thank UNFPA for funding the radio adaptations and the IVRS initiative that is helping people all over the country connect with us. And we are grateful to Doordarshan and AIR for partnering with us in this great venture. Countering age old practices and changing mindsets requires a sustained campaign. We are excited to see the interest shown by various donors to join a consortium for funding further episodes of the serial.
During the year, we had other occasions to rejoice. Our pioneering work on the health of the urban poor was recognized. India launched the National Urban Health Mission and a range of tools and processes that had been developed by us for our Health of the Urban Poor program were adopted, adapted and launched across cities and states. PFI is a technical partner in the roll out of the mission, and along with the National Health Systems Resource Centre, has been training state nodal officers across the country. PFI has also helped review the state implementation plans of all 35 states for community processes, ASHAs and Health Management Information Systems components.
As the Secretariat of Advisory Group on Community Action (AGCA), PFI continued to advocate for scaling up Community Action for Health (CAH) to all states. Towards this, the AGCA team provided technical support to the National Health Mission teams in 15 states -- Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Himachal
Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Odisha, Punjab, Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh, to strengthen and scale up the implementation of CAH. A workshop for state nodal officers on Community Action for Health was organized by the AGCA with support from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
PFI has been involved in the development of tools and processes and was part of the working group, constituted by the MoHFW, to guide the development of national guidelines for Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committees and Rogi Kalyan Samitis.
As a grant making organisation, PFI has always looked at supporting innovative programmes that drive learning, help effect changes on the ground and influence policy making. Again, using the positive deviance approach, PFI through a partner NGO, the Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur is studying 400 first generation young women from the most marginalized and illiterate families in Rajasthan who have been able to overcome economic, social and structural barriers to gain access to college education. We hope to identify what is it that triggers the empowerment of women, particularly educational attainment.
I thank the Government of India and the state governments who repose great trust in us to work on some of the most complex of social issues. I am grateful to our funders for without their support we would not have been able to undertake these activities. I acknowledge the remarkable role played by PFI’s Governing Board and Advisory Council in steering our course with great vision and purpose. We have a great team of professionals at PFI who work with complete dedication and commitment, for they know their work matters. Together, we can make a difference to the lives of millions of Indians.
(From our Annual Report 2013-14)