US-returned researcher Maya Vishwakarma, who had earlier earned the moniker of ‘Pad Jiji’ (Pad sister) or ‘Pad woman’ for her crusade on menstrual hygiene, has now led an initiative to set up a 10-bed hospital to provide necessary medical intervention after new cases of COVID-19 have been reported from her native village in Madhya Pradesh’s Narsinghpur district.
Vishwakarma, who worked as a researcher on leukemia at the University of California six years ago, returned to India and established a sanitary pad manufacturing unit in 2019 aided by all-women staff at Dedwara village. With the capacity of producing 1,000 sanitary pads in a month, the unit is able to provide sanitary products at the cost of Rs 20 per piece. A group of a dozen women produces pads with the help of two machines which the foundation had received through a US-based volunteer organization.
“We are contemplating ways to reduce the cost and double the production,” Vishwarkarma told the media. She added that she is also eyeing employment for rural women alongside creating awareness about sanitary pads. She has also established a telemedicine centre in the village where connectivity by road is still limited.
“In the US, healthcare services are approachable so I had decided to work in the healthcare field for my region where the nearest primary health centre is at 15 km and the civil hospital is at 100 km and many used to die on the way to the hospital. Nearby facilities too are ill-equipped to address local healthcare needs,” Vishwarkarma said in the media report.
In March this year, cases of mild symptomatic COVID-19 patients started being reported in the village. “I turned the telemedicine centre into a 10-bed hospital with oxygen concentrators, basic check-ups, and telemedicine for consultation,” she commented. “We used to conduct check-ups, offer medicines and send patients home and call them back the next day for examinations,” she added. She remarked that with regular monitoring, most of them have recovered and none was required to be put on oxygen although oxygen concentrators are available at the hospital.
Sukarma Foundation, established by Vishwakarma, is also involved in helping locals with dry ration and medicines as COVID-19 and associated lockdowns continue to create a sense of food insecurity across India. The organization still continues to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene and distribute sanitary pads among rural women.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)