Zivame, the famous online lingerie brand, wished for and funded the organisation of a Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness and Screening Program, in collaboration with Milaap. Milaap picked Gramalaya Microfin Foundation (GMF), one of their field partners working out of rural Tiruchirappalli to do the noble deed of mobilizing villagers, borrowers of their microcredit, to be the beneficiaries of the generous program. The program was extended over a period of five days in five different locations, covering all the local branches of GMF across the district. There was great response as a lot of women turned up to get themselves screened and, in general, to know what the fuss was all about. The common question that I asked all of them was why they hadn't got themselves tested before, which was met by the same answer, they had no idea that such types of cancer, which affect only women, exist.I didn't have much to do in the camp as the doctors were at work in two separate rooms, one each for both the tests, so I went around speaking to those who'd come there in an attempt to understand what was on their minds. Here are some of my findings:Women from Periyapalliyam I spoke to five women of the same Joint Liability Group, all of whom make mats. Mani said that she visited the camp only because a staff member from GMF told her about it today. Vijayalakshmi, on the other hand, knew about the possibility of being a victim of such cancer but never got herself tested out of fear of being touched and her privacy being invaded. P. Sharmila, M.Gomithi and M.Kasturi, all said that they too know about the importance of these tests but wished to live in denial of acquiring any such cancer as ignorance is bliss. All of them were encouraged by the staff members of GMF to attend the camp and they were ever grateful to have done so. They thanked Milaap for organising the camp as they could get these tests done for free.[caption id="attachment_5783" align="aligncenter" width="640"] From left: Kasturi, Gomithi, Mani, Sharmila and Vijayalakshmi[/caption]Women from KollakudipattyRangamma, 75 years old, seemed odd-one out, with a piece of cloth covering her right hand as she'd got some severe burns while cooking just recently, since all other women who attended the camp were in their 40s. I asked her why she'd come, for which she said, "I live next door. I want to check my sugar level. Also, my leg really hurts. I don't have enough money to go to a hospital." She lives with her husband, who is 97 years old. She looks after him day-in and day-out. Her son sends her some money. After she got her tests done she looked a little surprised, the doctors explained to her the kind of tests that were being done. She said she was glad she came, nonetheless. The doctors found everything to be normal and she was quite happy about that. She said she'll send her daughters to the other venues where the tests would be conducted the rest of the week.Mookai (50), Pushpavalli (35) and Kamalam(55), all of whom are Rangamma's neighbors, also visited the camp. There was a breast and cervical awareness drive conducted by the Government Hospital a few weeks back in their Panchayat that they had attended. So, they were aware of the importance of such tests, but were reluctant to go to the hospital on their own to get themselves tested, as they feared the costs they might incur. They are grateful to Milaap and GMF for being kind enough to organise such tests for free.The woman who was guiding all the others I mentioned above with their answers, since she knew them so well, was Kaniga, 32 years old. She seemed to be the driving force behind all these women attending the camp. She knew the relevance of the tests and had convinced others in her village to get themselves checked here. This was her second check-up for breast and cervical cancer.[caption id="attachment_5785" align="aligncenter" width="640"] From left: Kaniga, Mookai, Pushpavalli, Rangamma and Kamalam[/caption]These were just a few of the many people I spoke to. It was absolutely lovely chatting them up and stealing a few laughs with strangers who didn't seem too strange at all. I am grateful to Milaap for this opportunity to be associated, in whatever capacity, to such a good cause. I look forward to being a part of more such rewarding initiatives in the future.
Free Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program for all!