I am heading off for my first fact finding trip outside of Delhi this afternoon! I will be investigating the status of health facilities in the state of Maharashtra. A former intern for Human Rights Law Network and I will be checking to see if these facilities are meeting basic requirements such as having running water, electricity, on-site trained medical doctors, safe and sanitary conditions, that they are accessible by road even in the monsoons, and are open daily. We will also be interviewing staff and patients to see whether pregnant women who are below the poverty line are receiving the health benefits promised by the government of India. The government wants to encourage women to deliver in hospitals instead of at home in order to try to reduce the maternal and infant mortality rates. To do so, health benefit schemes have been created to provide these women with free deliveries in hospitals. They should not have to pay for any health services related to the pregnancy or delivery, including transportation to and from these often far away and hard to reach facilities. Additionally, each woman that is below the poverty line should receive a small cash incentive for each delivery done in a hospital (amounting to about 10 US dollars). I am excited to see for myself the reality of the health system and to travel out to the countryside.
I have been trying to get out and explore more of Delhi lately as well. Humayan’s Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was spectacular. I also checked out the Red Fort and Lodi Gardens, which is my new favorite spot in Delhi. Nature, wildlife and peacefulness combined with amazing tombs and mosques from the 1400’s!
One thing I am struggling with a bit here is not feeling completely comfortable exploring on my own. If no friends are around to join me, I usually love wondering and discovering new places by myself. However, being the extremely tall female foreigner stands out and attracts a whole lot of attention. The extremely tall female foreigner who walks alone is even worst. My lovely day in the park was a little bit tainted by the three creepy men who followed me around. I was able to dodge each one and nothing bad happened, but I am a little sad that I should probably refrain from exploring by myself.
Of course, my mindset is partially a result of the important issues worked on at the office every day. For instance, last week I attended my first protest in India with several people from the office. The protest was organized by several women’s rights activist groups in Delhi, opposing the arrests of human rights activists in the state of West Bengal. They were arrested for trying to meet with the Chief Minister of the state to address women’s safety concerns after recent rape assaults. The prevalence of rape and violence toward women here is certainly at the forefront of the growing women’s rights movement in India, particularly since the fatal December gang rape in Delhi.