Mothers waiting for kids outside school — a never-ending adda session, a business opportunity to dispel lies about lice.
One in every second girl child in school in India has lice. It often causes other health problems, like depression, irritability, skin problems, and even anaemia. Mothers often use drastic measures, like kerosene, naphthalene and pesticides, to treat the problem. Instead of making things better, they, in turn, cause giddiness, nausea and breathing problems. These are a few facts unearthed by Mediker, the anti-lice shampoo and oil manufacturer, during a survey.
The company has several working projects to increase awareness about the disease. For example, the education of schoolchildren in Haryana and slum-dwellers in Mumbai. In Calcutta, the plan, to be implemented from August 26, is adda sessions with mothers, while they wait for their kids outside schools. “Of course, each concept can be taken from one city or state to another, with adaptations, but the addas are such a uniquely Calcutta-specific phenomenon that we decided to start off here,” says Deepali Naair, marketing manager, Mediker. “No other place will you find mothers spending the day outside schools for their children. And mothers are our most important forum, because they are the one who decide the treatment.”
Starting off with South Point, the method is story-telling, through the ordeal of ‘little girl next door’ Moon Moon, who faces social embarrassment from her fellow-students due to her lice problem. Through question-and-answer sessions and free samplers, the Mediker team hopes to get rid of not just lice, but some common misconceptions about the disease. “Like the fact that clean hands means no lice and that long hair is more susceptible than short hair,” adds Naair.
The five-week-long adda project during International Anti-lice Month, September, is designed to dispel the notion that lice is “just a part of growing up” and a “normal problem”, though embarrassing. “We found that a lot of mothers consider stomach upsets and common colds as more serious, which is a real myth. In the US, children are sent home if found with lice, and are allowed back only after a check-up proves the problem has gone. That is important, because apart from the social stigma, head lice is a problem that is infectious and isn’t going to go away without the right information,” she observes. “The way to deal with it is to nip the problem in the bud, before it gets out of hand. That can only happen with awareness.”