Winning an election anywhere in the world can involve a lot of strength, money and power. This is even more pronounced in India’s state of West Bengal, where politics can be very volatile.
But in a small village in West Bengal along the border between India and Bangladesh, a young woman named Rama Sarkar has proved that there are exceptions to this rule.
Rama is still coming to terms with the fact that she has been elected as the village leader, a representative of the village council. Things have moved quickly for Rama ever since an Operation Eyesight-supported Hospital Based Community Eye Health Project was launched in the area where her village is located. The project was implemented by our partner, Thakur Sitaram Seva Kendra Eye Hospital.
Along with 13 other women, Rama was selected as a community health worker in early 2010. She underwent 25 days of rigorous and intensive training before she could start working in the community she lived. Her husband supported her in her new role, knowing it was a challenging but satisfying job which Rama enjoyed.
In her role as community health worker, Rama met families in the community, educating them on a wide range of issues from eye health to immunization, women’s health issues to government programs. She organized 22 screening programs in which over 900 people were screened for potentially blinding eye conditions. Of those, 165 people underwent sight saving surgeries. Above all, she was directly involved in bringing quality eye health care to 25,000 vulnerable people in her area.
She developed a rapport with the government primary healthcare staff in the area, and supported their efforts in improving the immunization coverage and reducing malnutrition.
Her experience of working in the community for over three years not only increased Rama’s confidence in herself, but the community’s confidence in her. She became very popular in her community and was asked to run for village council. With some hesitation and apprehension, she agreed to participate in the Gram Panchayat elections from her village, and to her surprise and delight, was elected as Gram Pradhan (village leader)!
Though she felt it was a big leap for a homemaker from a farming community, it was Rama’s experience of working in the community and for the community that gave her confidence to lead and deliver for the people of her community.
After getting elected, she thanked Operation Eyesight and the hospital, crediting them with helping her to reach this position. Although she had to resign from her position as a community health worker, she promised to ensure that her efforts to eliminate avoidable blindness from her community will continue.
We congratulate Rama on her new role! She is an asset in our mission of eliminating avoidable blindness. Learn more about our innovative community health worker programs