“We must take the old systems [of medicine] more seriously if we are to achieve the goal of health for all”
Pratapi Bai is one of the guni masters at JJVS, known for her skills at the local, national and international level. She began learning about traditional medicine at age 10 while watching her father, a locally renowned traditional healer, provide treatment for over 400 households in the area. It was very uncommon for women to be trained as Gunis in rural Rajasthan. She often was tasked with picking medicinal plants from the garden and assisting her father on various cases, thus receiving informal training in bone setting, asthma, fever and urinary tract problems. Her mother was also a healer and had extensive knowledge in women’s’ health issues, which she passed on to Pratapi. At age 16, Pratapi was married to Chena Ramji, a farmer who is supportive of her work as a traditional healer and helps collect herbs for her medicinal treatments. She gained experience as a Traditional Birth Attendant and by age 20 began delivering babies in her village. In 1993, she joined JJVS and was able to receive training to become an official Guni. This training consisted of classes in biology, natural healing, and medicinal plants, as well as sharing of traditional medicine knowledge by all Gunis present. This training expanded her expertise of various health issues. Now Pratapi Bai is able to treat kidney stones, hemorrhoids, and blood blockages. By closely collaborating with JJVS and other Gunis, she has been able to share her familial knowledge as well as gain new knowledge from others that has helped her provide better care for her patients. Her work as a traditional healer and midwife granted her the trust and gratitude from her village, and she was elected as a leader of the local government Panchayat.
Becoming both a political leader and a famous healer was not easy. It was taboo for a woman to leave the village to become educated, and her husband was ridiculed for having a wife who was perceived as too independent. After receiving international fame, she finally received the approval and pride of her village. She was invited to attend the 1994 UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China and was able to inspire and be inspired by powerful and empowering women from around the world. Today, Pratapi Bai delivers children, prepares medicinal treatments, all approved by Ayurvedic doctors, and treats patients through the Guni Training and Treatment Center (GTTC). She is an active educator of both women and men in childbirth techniques and guni knowledge through JJVS, and a firm believer in community development through the revitalization of traditional and more accessible systems of medicine.