AIR’s 14 radio stations in Madhya Pradesh ran a 15 to 20 minute episode daily on the issue of women's health.
Anil Gulati in Bhopal
Ten percent of maternal deaths in India take place in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Maternal death audits as undertaken by the state reveal that how timely medical attention still is a challenge for many pregnant women. Lack of awareness on recognition of danger signs, issue of transport, access to proper medical facilities, poverty are still some of the many challenges which needed to be overcome. Though the Government of Madhya Pradesh has launched many schemes to promote institutional deliveries and to combat maternal mortality, with special focus for below the poverty line and those belonging to scheduled castes and tribes, but a lot remains to be done.
Media and civil society are helping to raise concern and create awareness on the issue. All India Radio with its vast network in the state particularly in rural Madhya Pradesh contributed its bit by using air waves for the cause by addressing issues of immediate concern to its audiences.
All India Radio in collaboration with the state government and UNICEF, supported by Department of International Development (DFID), strategically used its programme options to engage communities on the issue of safe motherhood and help voice their concern by its people - policy interface. It also used its news network to give voice to state and civil society on the issue. Content analysis of last few months i.e. June 2006 - Feb 2007 AIR news reports tell us that the issue has been in focus and is spread evenly. News pertaining to government proclamations, schemes, and events took the major share but the news network also relayed statements of various experts and people working on the issue, which is a positive trend.
AIR has a strong presence especially in rural areas vide its fourteen radio stations across the state. It ran a 15 to 20 minute episode daily in form of a series from its network of radio stations on the issue of women's health. 35 such programmes were aired. Each programme had a local expert, often a medical professional to answer the questions and issues that were raised by the people from the district. It also provided information on how to recognize danger signs in pregnancy, stressed on the need of institutional delivery, care including nutrition of women during pregnancy, and issues related to anaemia. The purpose was to provide information and answers to the questions to the community by a local expert.
In addition to the same, the radio network also aired a series of seven one-hour live-phone in programmes on its afternoon prime time slot each month. It was a 'people - policy maker interface'. As part of the same programme a political representative or a representative from the state department was present in the studio to answer questions raised by callers on the issue. For the first time the issue of maternal health was addressed in this forum. The initiative by its very nature strengthened the community - system interface.
In the first programme the State Health & Family Welfare Minister answered questions from various rural parts of the state. Callers from far off villages in districts like Rewa, Tikamgarh, Sagar and Hoshangabad, brought to the notice of Health Minister the problems they face when it comes to the functioning of the health delivery system at the primary health centre level. The common grievance was that the doctors and nurses were absent from the duty. Questions were also raised the benefits of schemes not accruing and the types of health schemes available. On similar lines representatives from State's Women Commission, Human Rights Commission, Women and Child development department, Rural Development and Public Relations department were involved. Fifteen to twenty questions were asked in each programme.
In the last of the series the Chief Minister of the state answered queries of people in the state on the issue. Though the programme focused on women's health and safe motherhood, issues of education especially of girls, grant of scholarships to girls as provided by the state and violence against women also came up. In turn the programme offered an opportunity for people to get answers to their grievances by their elected representative on issues which many times get neglected in the political process.