Since the start of this fundraiser, the Kushal project has progressed leaps and bounds. There have been a few twists and turns along the way too!
Many many thanks to all of you who have contributed to the project through this fundraiser. Your support has helped me ground activities based on the day to day realities of pregnant women in remotes villages of India and most importantly explore and establish ways of doing things that are direct, efficient and impactful at a much lower cost compared to similar projects.
As a result of your support, I had created digital assets, have a web presence, and in the city of Vijaywada responded robustly to the crisis of COVID and its impact on pregnant women. An endeavour that allowed partner organisation Vasavya Mahila Mandali to leverage and receive a three year grant from Wipro Foundation. The grant is specifically to implement Kushal in 70 Urban Health Centres in Vishakapatnam, an important port city of Andhra Pradesh.
My focus is now on North 24 Parganas, a district in West Bengal state. I work directly with over 20 women community leaders who are members of self help groups, to conduct antenatal wellbeing and mental health workshops once a week in their villages. Story telling, what to expect education, tips to help with wellbeing and yoga based pregnancy exercises are standard components of the workshops. The response has been heartening. In a village, generally 50 - 70% of the pregnant women attend Kushal workshops. Also, the majority of pregnant women repeatedly attend the workshops each week with enthusiasm and excitement. My aim is to increase coverage, both in terms of reach in a village and geographical coverage, so as to help many more women.
The way Kushal operates presently is a departure to what I had envisaged in the early days of the project. Whilst the mission and purpose remains the same, I have adapted my initial operational approach, which was to work through NGOs. I have shifted to direct community action - with and by communities. I feel closer and truer to the spirit and cause of women's empowerment and agency, which was my driving force and reason to start this project. Thank you!
I have updated the Kushal website to reflect these developments. Please do visit.
Hello, I am Sujit. I have started this fundraiser for Kushal to support women no matter where they come from, rich or poor, to have information and self-determination to take action for their own wellbeing during pregnancy. Kushal's field activities are currently in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, two states in India.
A bit on my background . I have both medical and management qualifications and have been working in health for over two decades. I have helped set up many community projects in Asia and Africa that focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights, maternal health and mental health.
The story of Kushal
It started 7 years ago when we had our first child. We were fortunate. It was the most beautiful experience – during pregnancy, childbirth and after. But was it because of luck?
We were resourceful enough to know where to get information, exercise choice and to take action in our best-interest. In our journey as a family, we were supported by community nurses, midwives and the/our local county hospital.
We had received gold standard services, not having to worry about exorbitant medical bills, for that matter any hospital related expense at all. Yes, we were lucky. We live in the UK and had access to its National Health Service (NHS). We also had the agency to make the most out of it.
Around the same time, I was visiting India a lot. I was engaged in a project that was helping strengthen public sector maternal health services in a state in Eastern India. I was crisscrossing the state, visiting teaching hospitals and primary health centers and talking to local communities. It was emotionally difficult.
In contrast to what we were then experiencing as a family, I was witnessing pregnant women having a rough time - passive recipients of an over medicalised system - voiceless and faceless. Childbirth for them and their families was not joyous. It was full of anxiety, and rarely with respect and dignity.
That was when the seed for Kushal got sowed.
How your support makes a difference
When COVID – 19 struck I knew I had to act with urgency.
Pregnant women and their families in Andhra Pradesh had nowhere to go for information or get support in relation to COVID.
In March 2019, I learnt WordPress from scratch and quickly turned around a website and put up wellness content in Telugu and English. That helped Kushal volunteers Leela and Sravani to support over 400 pregnant women at the local government hospital and 7 private hospitals in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh with counselling and mentoring. These hospitals are now requesting us to continue with activities for pregnant women in their antenatal clinics. 35,000 births take place in these hospitals annually.
“I don’t know what changes take place inside my body – all I know is that my belly grows bigger!”
“An app will help me know what I don’t know.”
“Show me how to use an app a few times. Next time I’ll use the app by myself.”
“Male members of our family will also find it useful. I will use the app with my husband.”
“I’d like to join a group – I feel shy to ask my mother-in-law questions.”
Your support will help Kushal to –
1. Develop a multilingual offline pregnancy wellbeing mobile app.
2. Break gender barriers related to digital literacy by coaching women to get familiar with technology and be confident in the use of smart phones.
3. Continue with wellness and storytelling workshops.
To ensure that Kushal’s activities in the field don’t stop, your support is crucial.
We need to reach more women in their first trimester who tend to not attend antenatal clinics and are vulnerable to maternal ill health.
Your funding will also allow Kushal to work with women’s self-help groups (SHGs) within communities in addition to carrying out activities in antenatal clinics.
I am seeking to raise £25,085 for Kushal.
1. £6585 for honorariums to three part time Kushal volunteers over one year.
“In lockdown, I didn’t mind waking up at 5AM in the morning to rush to the hospitals. I only had a window of 2 hours from 7 to 9 AM to meet pregnant women in the outdoor. I know how important it is for women to have the information that Kushal gives. If I had the same information in my first pregnancy perhaps life would have been different for me and my child.”
2. £8000 to develop a multilingual mobile app that can be used offline and downloaded from Google Play. This will also pay for backend support from IT professionals. We have prototyped such an app.
3. £5000 to pay for the development of audio-visual content, which will include contextualised educational YouTube wellness clips.
4. £5500 - Social media and digital marketing.
Any amount you donate will help take Kushal one step closer to its objective to scale up and provide quality services - every penny counts!