“Hi-fi and Expensive”
Over two years ago, during the filming of our documentary entitled ‘Her’ Voice, Our Satya explored the reality of early marriage, gender inequality, caste discrimination, poverty and unequal access through the eyes of women in rural India. One of the most devastating moments of capturing this reality was during an interview of women recalling their experiences as child brides. During this interview our village intermediary, a child bride herself named Tulsi, shared that she had just recently lost her baby. Tulsi explained that she was in an emotionally abusive marriage, and returned to the village to carry out her pregnancy with the support of her family. Tragically, during the final trimester, her baby died in her womb.
One year later our team learned that Tulsi had remarried and was happily settling into a new community. So three months ago when I visited Tulsi’s parents home I was surprised to find Tulsi there. Broken hearted and weak, Tulsi was once again recovering from an intra-uterine fetal death.
Devastated, Tulsi was unaware of the reason for the death of her baby. She explained that she had taken precautions to ensure that she could carry a healthy baby to full term. She travelled twice a month (sometimes weekly) to a medical clinic paying for private consultation (Although government hospitals provide free medical care for pregnant women of marginalized populations they are also known for providing below quality health care) so that her pregnancy could be monitored effectively. With pride she explained how her husband brought her filtered water and foods not available in the village. When Tulsi mentioned that she had Typhoid Fever during her initial trimester, I went to this private clinic to speak to her health care provider regarding causes of death and future health implications.
What I learned shocked Tulsi. The doctor explained that there are additional tests to help screen and prevent higher risk pregnancies. Claiming that these tests are very “hi-fi and expensive”, the doctor assured me that all measures would now be taken for Tulsi’s 3rd pregnancy. Exasperated, Tulsi exclaimed that the doctor had never mentioned additional tests nor should she have assumed that she would or could not pay the necessary expense when she was paying the doctor for each and every one of their visits.
There are infinite gaps between health practitioners and marginalized communities in India. These gaps are most often than not exasperated by stereotypes and prejudice carried by health practitioners towards those of different socio-economic classes. Increased health education is crucial so that rural communities can question and demand effective health care. And raising awareness and compassion amongst medical practitioners is imperative for the overall health and wellness of whole communities.
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