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Aarogyachya Margavar: Violence and Women’s Health

Cehat had conducted a research on reproductive and general morbidity in parts of a slum in the Jari Mari area. The study brought out that large number of women were suffering from reproductive health problems, and despite a plentiful supply of health care facilities in Mumbai, they remained silent about nearly half of their health problems and approached no health care provider.

Moreover, instances of violence came to the fore during the interactions with women from this community, but due to methodological constraints, information on violence against women could not be recorded as part of this study. This was the genesis of the research and action programme Aarogyacha Margawar. Since its inception in 1988, the programme aimed to be women- centred and community-based in its values, objectives, and strategies. We aimed to develop the programme as a model for community health work in an urban area prioritizing the health of women and children. We also laid equal emphasis on the physical and the mental well being of the community, highlighting the inter-linkage between the two. Health work was seen as a doorway to develop work on domestic violence. It was envisaged that all our activities would serve as an intervention programme for addressing the issue of domestic violence in the urban slums. The health programme included the training of women community health workers, increasing the accessibility of slum dwellers to affordable and reliable reproductive health services, through properly trained women CHWs. A systematic, qualitative and survey-based study of the prevalence, forms and problems related to violence against women in this area eventually led to the setting up of a response unit for survivors of violence in the slum area. This was initiated both at the medical clinic and in the community by training CHWs in basic counselling skills.

The research was trained on the prevalence, nature, causes, helpseeking behaviour, and community response to domestic violence against women in a poor urban slum community. It was also directed to understand the existing psychological, legal, and medical support mechanisms. It also sought women’s opinions and values about existing and other required services. The understanding of the social, political, and economic contradictions, which are at the root of this violence, to highlight the linkage between broad social, economic and political contradictions that exist at a macro level and domestic violence that exists at a community level were the other prime considerations.

Supported by: MacArthur Foundation Research Team:Anagha Khot, Aruna Kartik, Bhavana Kapadia,Ravi Duggal,Ratnaprabha Pedhambkar, Sumita Menon, Sushma Gamre, and T. R. Dilip