BRAC is known to empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice. However, BRAC does much more than that. Shasthya Shebikas are community-based health volunteers in both rural and urban areas, delivering health services. The Shasthya Shebikas are mostly women from underprivileged backgrounds, who are trained in intense healthcare, mostly around pre-natal and neo-natal care for new mothers and their newborns, among other areas.
Mosammat Nargis Khatun, from Bogura, studied in Baigoni School till class five and then moved to Gaptoli High School to study till class eight, after which she was married off. “After getting married, my husband got a job in Dhaka TNT Express and I was a housewife, at the age of 14,” says Nargis. She saw people from BRAC visit her area for healthcare and was inspired by the work they do. “One of the ladies who would visit, told me that if I wanted, I could get training in healthcare and help the society too,” says Nargis. “I didn't think about it twice and agreed to train.”
For every 200 households, one Shasthya Shebika is in charge. They have supervisors, known as Shasthya Kormis, who assign them the work and provide necessary assistance. The Shasthya Shebika is to check on every family living in the area they are assigned to, (Nargis's areas is Korail Bosti), and help them with family planning and regular check-ups. “We focus most on new mothers, regarding their pre-natal and post-natal care,” says Nargis. “We also help the mothers take care of their newborns, give them advice on breastfeeding and so on.”
Nargis has been working tirelessly over the years to give back to the society as soon as she got the chance. “I am very proud of being a Shasthya Shebika. It gives me immense joy to be able to help people and my society,” she says. Being a mother herself, Nargis now dreams of her son serving the society just as she does, “My son has studied to be a paramedic. He is not working right now, but he's looking for a job. I just hope he can soon find one and is able to help people to his fullest potential.”
Being a part of BRAC has changed how Nargis envisions her future. “BRAC has really helped me shape my life and become who I am today. My living standards have improved greatly, and I can dream of a better future for my whole family now.”