Assam’s human rights activist Arpana Choudhury, who has been listed in Forbes 30 under 30, has continued her mission to tackle maternal health issues in Assam.
During an interaction with Northeast Now, Choudhury blamed lack of medical facilities for rise in rates of maternal mortality in the State.
Choudhury, who worked as a Justice Program Associate for Nazdeek, an NGO, has been facilitating training among women in tea gardens regarding their maternal health and human rights in general.
Highlighting the problems faced by pregnant women, Choudhury said, “There are violations of the maternal rights every day because the medical facilities are not adequate. Sometimes the conditions of roads in Assam are not good and the ambulance does not reach on time.”
She was listed in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2017 for her work in the grassroots level in Sonitpur district.
Assam has the highest rate of maternal mortality and the women in the tea gardens are highly vulnerable to it due to low level of education and lack of proper infrastructure.
“The tea-pickers have to pick 24 kilograms of tea leaves per day for which they are paid just Rs 136. In addition, there are deductions for benefits like housing, education,” Choudhury said.
“They get a maternal leave of just three months which they take from the eighth month onwards,” she added.
“I started training Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers and homemakers on human rights, basic rights like maternal health rights, right to education and how to file complaints. After the training, these women do the monitoring and mapping to identify cases of maternity rights violation,” Choudhury said.
Choudhury provides legal aid to the victim families in cases of maternal mortality and infant mortality.
She supervises a community of paralegals who provide training to the women to raise awareness.
“There is a dedicated team of community paralegals who help raise awareness among women regarding their constitutional rights. To bridge the gap, I advocate for their rights with the local authorities and file cases,” Choudhury said.
To expand her work across Assam, Choudhury recently launched an organization – WE DO (Women Empowerment and Develepment Organization).
The organization is headquartered in Tezpur and brings together a team of activists, researchers and professionals with the prime objective to empower women.
WE DO will also highlight the issues faced by the marginalized sections of the society.