An analysis of the Odisha Health Sector and Nutrition Support Programme (OHNSP), showed the need to move beyond strengthening government systems and to directly address the underlying social determinants of Health, Nutrition, Water and Sanitation (HNWASH); catalyse community capacity and improve community management of services. Accordingly, Phase II of the OHNSP focused on strengthening demand for various services from the community. The interventions aimed to strengthen and leverage “community processes” for improved HNWASH practices and outcomes, and the convergence of HNWASH services and resources at the local level.
The Government of Odisha came up with an approach to address the maternal, child health and sanitation problems of the state using the Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) approach by leveraging the Mission Shakti women’s SHGs as carriers of this approach among communities.
The PLA approach, in the present context, is called Shakti Varta. In Shakti Varta, the PLA approach is viewed as a capacity-building process in which women’s group members invite members, non-group members, adolescent girls, pregnant women, mothers, as well as men and frontline service providers for learning, planning, carrying out and evaluating activities on a participatory and sustained basis.
Local women from SHGs are identified and trained to facilitate PLA meetings using simple interactive approaches that help start discussions and stimulate action. Block Finance Coordinators provide support in ensuring financial and operational guidelines are followed.
NCIS is the support agency on the DFID-funded project since 2014. Shakti Varta covers 24,000 villages, covering a population of more than 17.5 million in the 15 high-burden districts.
The strength of Shakti Varta on ground is:
- 7,000 Gram Panchayat (GP) level Facilitators
- 608 Block Coordinators cum Trainers
- 152 Block Finance Coordinators
- Resource Pool of 30 Master Trainers at state level
An extensive online Knowledge Management Portal and a Resource Centre have been set up to prevent training loss in a cascade mode of training, provide a real-time dashboard of project progress and ensure quality of village meetings. Leveraging the technology innovation in health services, the portal acts as a platform for concurrent and interactive capacity building and handholding support to the facilitators, through automatic escalation of unresolved queries to the next higher level shortening the turn-around time. The initiative ensures consistent and quality services to the community by building local capacities and strengthening the hands of frontline service providers. A concurrent monitoring assessment is under way.
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