Rani Bang, a co-founder of SEARCH, the Society for Education Action and Research in Community Health is a pioneer in the field of Indian healthcare. Stree Books, Kolkata have just brought out her Putting Women First: Women and Health in a Rural Community.
Written with Rupa Chinai, a distinguished journalist who has specialized on developmental journalism with a focus on health and Sunanda Khorgade, who works with the women’s health programme at SEARCH, the book has a foreword by Rahul Goswami, a policy analyst and writer based in Goa who says "this book is as much about the lives and times of ordinary people as it is about social medicine."
It is a doctor’s story about her practice, which lets her extrapolate about the realities of rural India for all Indians. Set in Gadchiroli, a district in central India, known for being an underdeveloped and backward area, it is where Dr. Rani Bang and her husband, Dr. Abhay Bang, set up the clinic for the Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health (SEARCH) and to practise medicine that explicitly catered to the Raj Gond, Madiya Gond, Pardhan and Halibi, the dominant tribal groups, along with non-tribal poor people who live in the area. This settlement goes back to prehistory and is a part of the ancient Dandakaranya forest mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Rani Bang’s research found that 92 percent of women in this region had no access to treatment for gynaecological disorders in the absence of women doctors. Such neglect was exacerbated by ‘development’ since rural families were, and remain, unprepared for the rapid changes wrought in the spheres of education, information, material enhancement and changes in lifestyle, which impact on relationships and health.
The book plays many roles: a commentary on the ‘chronic myopia’ of a planning process that refuses to see millions of Indians or to think of the ways in which their lives could be bettered; careful observations on the enormous social changes that impact on tribal society where traditional kinship and ecological systems are being sorely stressed; and a logbook of case medicine.
In their own way, the Bangs have set in motion a type of revolution that equips people, communities and administrators with the tools to ‘build an indigenous expression of development, one in which the fundamentals of healthcare, interdependence and sustainable economics are paramount’. The last chapter of the book summarizes the author’s recom-mendations for policy makers.
In our Public Health and Gender sections, in hardcover, 300pages, Rs 700. ISBN 9788185604961