Babli Bai wants to not only continue learning about women’s health issues but also spread her knowledge to the greater community. Her personal experiences, education in healing and resulting confidence have inspired and enabled her to become an advocate for and teacher of women’s health in her village.
Babli Bai Kharadi is a 45-year-old female Guni who runs a clinic with Shanti Lal nearby Jaisamand Lake. She spent most of her childhood doing housework while her five brothers went to school. Her parents, both farmers, did not think it was necessary for her to go to school, and she is still illiterate to this day. In the mornings, she would wake up at 5 AM and climb the nearby mountain to collect grass for the cows, carrying baati, a thick Indian bread roll, for breakfast. After coming down the mountain, she would take the cattle to drink at a pond or well, do housework, and then travel up the mountain again to collect more grass in the evening. Most days, she climbed the mountain three times, often carrying heavy bundle of grains on her head. At age 20, she was married to a farmer in the village and they have one son.
Growing up, Babli Bai had been to the forest and knew the names and uses of some plants. Her father was close friends with Guni Shanti Lal, so she often overheard him talking about his work. At age 26, she received herbal treatment for migraine and menstruation pain by Shanti Lal. She was inspired by his treatment and wanted to learn this healing art for herself and her family. After receiving the support of her family and village, she was able to become his apprentice. He and JJVS have trained her in Panchkarma, Aaditherapy, medicinal plants, Myotherapy, and midwifery. Today, she helps not only herself and her family but also the greater community. Thankfully, both her husband and family support her. She is very grateful to Shanti Lal for treating and training her, and to JJVS for training her teacher and then continuing to teach both of them new techniques and skills. JJVS has helped her become well-known in the area, thereby widened her impact as a healer. After receiving treatment, skeptical patients become appreciative of the inexpensive and skilled care she provides.
At the clinic, Shanti Lal sees all the male patients while Babli Bai sees all of the female patients. Some common rural women’s health issues include joint and back pain, headaches, menstruation pain and white discharge, which causes pain and weak joints. Emergency transportation to the hospital when women go into labor is also a prominent issue in this rural community. Her brother’s wife went into labor, and the jeep that was supposed to take her to the hospital was late so that Babli Bai, also pregnant at the time, ended up delivering the baby. She is currently training 3 female Gunis in nearby villages.
Babli Bai feels that a lack of education has led to many women’s health issues. She remembers the first time she had her period. She was in the field and was very scared by the mysterious pain and blood that was coming out of her. Forced to come home at 8 PM that night, she did not tell anyone what happened to her and was visibly upset. Eventually her brother’s wife asked her what happened and explained to her that this was normal and would happen every month. The woman brought her food and tea to calm her nerves and told her about the cloth that she would have to wear and how to wash it. She realizes that many girls do not have someone who will teach them about their periods or health. Mothers do not talk about these things with their daughters and there is a heavy societal stigma against this natural process. Few women know about proper feminine hygiene and many are too shy to discuss it with others. Without a job, women do not have the money to buy proper pads or cotton for their periods. Babli Bai has seen dupattas, thin polyester scarves, being used as sanitary pads in the villages, but this cloth is not absorbent and if not properly dried, can cause infection and painful white discharge. Women are not able to dry their dirty pads outside because men cannot see them, so the pads are dried indoors and often remain damp. Many male and female Gunis have mentioned menstruation pain and white discharge as one of the most prevalent health issues in the villages. Babli Bai feels comfortable talking about the root of this issue with other women because she knows that the best preventative solution is proper education.
Babli Bai was not always this confident and open when talking about these heavily stigmatized topics. She grew up in a society where women do not typically speak in front of men. Women’s health issues are not talked about with other women or known about by the greater society. As Babli Bai’s knowledge about Guni healing and medicine slowly increased, so too did her confidence. She was never sent to school by her parents and cannot read or do any calculations for the clinic, so someone else must do it for her and this made her feel bad about herself. For this reason, she thinks that studying and getting an education is very necessary for girls, and that every girl should be sent to school. Babli Bai envisions the creation of a women’s’ health educational program where women teach adolescents about their menstrual cycles and personal hygiene.