“We have to stand on our own feet. We have to raise our voices when needed,” she affirms. This interest in identifying and collectively addressing local needs paved the way for her participation in the Sundarbans Eye Health Service Strengthening Project supported by Sightsavers.
“Eye health is very important and we cannot neglect it. It is very difficult to find reliable service providers here and I want the women and other people in the area to get good services,” she declares. Madhabi came to know about the facilities (Vision Centre and base hospital managed under the project) and the range of related services from the local community health worker who had contacted her. The two struck up a friendship almost immediately. They later discovered that they were distant relatives as well.
Madhabi has proven to be a valuable link with the local communities. In 2017, she played the key role in organising an eye health camp by obtaining permission from the head master of the local primary school for the venue. “In our SHG meeting, I spoke about the camp. I even went door to door to tell people about the camp. I started at 7 am in the morning. They (the people) trust me and so many came,” she recounts.
Since then, Madhabi has ensured that the women’s SHGs in her area include eye health in their monthly discussions. She has referred many people to the Vision Centre. About ten of them have subsequently undergone cataract surgeries as well. “Those who went were satisfied. Some came back and said that even their families could not have cared for them like this. I had also gone and checked out the hospital,” she states. While awareness about eye health issues and services have increased, Madhabi feels that a lot more can be done. “We can do programmes where panchayat , health and ICDS workers and my SHG women are all brought together. We can share several messages including the importance of nutritious food for good eye sight,” she suggests.