The premises of the Tribhuvandas Foundation (TF), a charitable organisation in Anand, Gujarat, are a hive of activity. In an open hall, surrounded by greenery, women are taking yoga and meditation classes to recover from post-natal issues. Mothers have come to pick up their infants after the morning session at the crèche. Expecting mothers are being checked and counseled by doctors. The foundation is an Amul initiative that provides healthcare to women and children in the villages of Kheda and Anand districts. “The most unique aspect of this programme is that it trains women to be self-reliant in dealing with healthcare issues in their villages,” says Dr Viren Doshi, CEO of TF.
There are two theories on how the foundation started. One version is that a moving statement made by a woman sowed its seeds; she wished she was born a cow because only then she would get the medical facilities provided by the dairy cooperative. “This inspired Tribhuvandas Patel to start TF. He was supported by Dr Kurien and HM Dalaya, who are considered with Patel the three pillars of the Amul revolution. Another version is that when Dr Rajendra Prasad visited the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union ltd, well-known for fueling the white revolution, he is said to have remarked with amazement on seeing the mobile dispensary that he was amazed to see such facilities for livestock which are not available elsewhere for human beings. No matter, whichever version is true, today it touches the life of 16 to 19 lakh people in Gujarat, mainly women,” Dr Doshi says.
When Patel retired from the chairmanship Of KDCMPU, he was presented with a purse of six hundred thousand rupees, by the members of the village cooperatives—one rupee per member being the contribution. He used this fund with what he received as part of The Ramon Magsaysay Award, to start the Tribhuvandas Foundation for women and children. TF was registered as a public charitable trust in 1975 and started activities in 1980, with grants from National Dairy Development Board, Amul and UNICEF, and later from the Overseas Development Administration.
It is now a Community health organisation, working mainly on reproductive and child health. “When TF started work, it was difficult to find qualified human resources in the dairy cooperative’s area of operation. TF adopted the model of training women volunteers from the community to provide basic healthcare in the villages. Thus, it is a need-based program for villages run by the villagers themselves,” explains Dr Doshi.
The programme is dependent on three sets of people: the mobile medical core team of professional nurses and midwives backed by doctors, village health workers, who are trained for providing basic medical help, and village infant workers. The workers are trained to offer primary health care and health education door-to-door, in groups and at the Dairy Co-operative Societies Centres.
The main focal areas of training include treatment of common ailments, antenatal, postnatal, neonatal and infant care, identification of suspected cases of cancer and referrals, education and counselling, and referral of critical cases to secondary and tertiary care centres. Dr Doshi says, “We also support the village teams with supply of sanitary pads, medicines, vaccines and other requirements. The women have shown exemplary training traits, imbibing knowledge and cultivating skills. Although the workers are supported by our professional units, they have become largely self-reliant, dispensing curative and preventive medicines, and learning to refer cases like risky pregnancy, malnutrition and major illnesses to the medical unit.”
Apart from healthcare and childcare, TF has also entered the field of livelihood enhancement for women. Dr Doshi says, “Women are trained in skills like appliqué, embroidery and fabrication, and provided with raw materials and design intervention. The finished handicraft products are marketed by the organisation with returns for the women.”