The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saas & bahu share platform, wisdom

Ujjain, Jan. 16: Saas and bahu came together on a platform here, not for the squabbles stereotyped on the small screen, but to swap tips on homemaking.

The Community Development and Mother-Child Welfare Programme brought together 35 mothers- and daughters-in-law for a one of its kind convention.

Experienced mothers-in-law took the opportunity to pass on useful tips to daughters-in-laws from villages. Everything from the size of family and reproductive health to education was discussed.

The convention coincided with the day when Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee invited Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh, along with other Bimaru chief ministers, to Delhi for a discussion on the states’ health and education. Bimaru stands for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, all of which have been lagging in development in various spheres.

The daughters-in-law at the convention shed their shyness and expressed the need to space the birth of children, educate girl children and do away with homemaking myths.

An impressed Ujjain collector Bhopal Singh said that by March, 105 more conventions would be organised in several Ujjain villages. District social welfare officers, health workers, schoolteachers and non-government organisations would help daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law to learn from each other.

“Our experience is that most of the time, these women are unable to air their views openly in a family environment for various reasons,” said Sandhya Vyas, programme officer, woman and child department. “But at these saas-bahu conventions, they discuss issues considered taboo in a family setting.”

Apart from talking about their views, the women benefit from sharing their experiences, Vyas said.

Kamala, 29, from Takwasa village took the opportunity to proclaim that a new-born should get mother’s milk first before it is fed honey — an old practice. “It (feeding honey) can lead to stomach infection,” she said, as a health worker nodded her approval at the advice.

Many like Saheen said they were not aware of the importance of mother’s milk. “In our families, it was considered auspicious to give honey first to the new-born,” she said. Saheen promised to pass on the information to her neighbours.

Some other women talked about stabilisation of population, immunisation, malnutrition and women’s empowerment.

Many mothers-in-law and daughters-in-laws complained that during pregnancy, the expectant mothers often did not get enough nutritious food. The elderly women recalled how their mothers-in-law would cook special dishes during a pregnancy. The modern age, they complained, was transforming such traditional practices.

Some others wanted daughters and daughters-in-law treated the same, without any discrimination. A teacher called for education for each girl child. Most of the participants agreed on the need for education, even if it did not lead to employment.

Rekha, from Takwasa, said her matric-level education helped her understand the importance of polio immunisation for her child. “We must together decide to weed out polio,” she said.

By the evening, when the convention wound up, both the participants and the organisers were happy they came together for a good purpose.

“We may not have achieved instant success but the interest it has generated, is worth noticing,” Bhopal Singh said.

For sarpanch Randhir Singh, more conventions and the resultant higher community awareness of women about their powers, health and education were the way out for the state from the Bimaru league.

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