Disclaimer: The article below corresponds to a general issue in families. It is not intended to target one specific issue or a family. The problem of Anemia is prevalent in most families. What we do not understand is the root cause.
It is 9’0 clock and the table is set for dinner. There are good options to choose from. There is salad, mutter paneer, Dal, Rice, and that amazing fragrance coming out of apple custard. Everyone is sitting at the table and enjoying their supper. However, we do not see our mom. She is busy making that perfect chapati for all of us. Others are completely immersed in the food being served, while our mother is trying her best that the refill of chapatis does not stop and we enjoy our meals to the fullest.
This short narration is prevalent in 60-70% of our Indian homes. Our mother usually eats last, and generally eats what is left off after other family members are done. While eating, She has limited choices, which is confined to either Chapaatis, Rice, and some bits of Paneer. Dal is the only major takeaway for her. Situations of Anemia is not uncommon here. Even if we talk about the situation globally, the Non-Pregnant Women is 30.2% that come under the category of being Anemic, according to the World Health Organization.
But why has this prevailed even after so many historically well defined moments like the abolition of Purdah, Suffragette movement, Equality in Marriages, and even Coparcenary rights?
Part of the problem that is inherent lies in the fact that woman is considered to be ‘nurturers’, ‘caretakers’, and they are often assumed to take full responsibility of the family, especially in domestic chores. Noted social revolutionaries like Jyotiba Phule, B R Ambedkar, and Savitri Bai Phule fought this precisely. They did not accept the idea that was ‘prevalent’. They fought for Women’s education, women’s participation in society, and even sovereignty in decision making. They got their success not through these ideas merely, but by also influencing people to change their mindset. Even Greek philosophers like Plato and Socrates at least admitted that woman confined to their homes would not benefit society much. They need to participate.
Why have we not brought these ancestral ideas to the 21st century? Social scholars are yet to define the exact cause, despite many government schemes like POSHAN-Abhiyaan, National Nutrition Mission, and Mission Immunization.
It is not only the problem of ideological understanding alone. Our mothers have also taken the matter ‘as it is. In other words, they have accepted this condition. Even my own mother at times does not eat her food until my father, or even her kids eat. I know for the fact that our mothers get hungry by 2 PM. She is a human. Mothers do feel hungry, weak, and vulnerable. It is this area that needs urgent intervention. Family members can contribute their bit by helping her with something like chapatis.
The plus side? We will develop our own culinary skills. I used to see my mother cook and even learned her few cooking skills. That helped me develop ‘aatmanirbharta’ at times whenever my cook did not use to come. Swiggy is not the answer for me every time.
Small steps lead to bigger ripples. If we throw a slab of rock in the sea, it does nothing but sink. But if we throw a small pebble in the sea, it creates beautiful ripples. Our mothers need support in the understanding that not ‘only’ she is ‘nurturing’, but also her own independent identity wherein she can and has to eat even if her husband or any family member is not there exactly at lunchtime. There is also a chance that our mothers have not eaten their breakfast snacks, which we also tend to miss.
Anaemia is a hidden hunger problem that leads to fatigue, weakness, bone problems, and health issues. Even pregnant woman suffer from this. Globally, 38 % of pregnant woman suffer from this problem. What is more worrisome is that 47% of those women are from South Asia alone, according to WHO.
If we do not tackle this issue at the start, we are to see exponential healthcare problems from where recovery is quite difficult.