“I was told, I was never given the option” : The unheard, untold story.

Pinky walks into the Primary Healthcare Centre on a hot Saturday morning. She’s accompanied by her husband and mother in law. Pinky is 24 years old and is already a mother to 3 young children. Having had 2 miscarriages in the last one year, she finally got the courage to speak up at home and tell her husband and mother-in-law that “no more!, no more children, or I shall be no more!”. Once finally at the PHC, Pinky felt like she would have her way. But she walked out with yet another decision made for her. “I was not told, I was not asked, I was never given an option, No one cared.”

 

At what point will stories like Pinky’s become an exception? Many women like Pinky have to go through an extremely emotionally and physically taxing ordeal of navigating the healthcare system often with no support from their families. It is challenging for women to retain their autonomy while making decisions about their own bodies. Pinky’s disappointment points to the fact that women in Patna and many other parts of India are not free to decide how many children they want, what contraceptive method is best for them and when to stop having children. Their husbands, mothers-in-law govern their bodies and make these decisions for them.  We’ve not broken out of the age-old shackles of patriarchy. Women are subject to extreme scrutiny from everyone, including healthcare providers, front-line-workers and chemists when they try to avail family planning services. This comes in many forms – only seeing female patients in the presence of their male partners, not providing a basket of choices, not maintaining confidentiality, sometimes even physically hitting patients if they ask for choices and options, general negligence from doctors and unsanitary facilities.

 

Parvati, another young woman, recalled being physically assaulted by hospital staff because she asked too many questions. She visited her local PHC to get an abortion because of complications in her pregnancy. She was made to spend on syringes and medicines, and procure the same. She had to buy a bottle of water when she requested one. An otherwise straightforward routine became a harrowing experience for Parvati. She got screamed at by the ANM on duty and was made to spend four thousand rupees, way beyond her means.  Nothing about this spells dignified.

 

Today we live in an era where we can stand up for one another even if we have never spoken, never seen or never heard the other person directly. The digital era means we can lend our voices for women like Pinky and Parvati and ensure they and those like them start receiving health services with care and dignity. Can you imagine a Patna where all the women stand up and support one another?

 

Use your power, use your voice today!

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