Child brides in Gujarat fight for nutrition

On a hot November afternoon, The quintet meet Devi*, a 17-year-old girl who is six months pregnant. “So far, there have been no complications,” the girl’s mother-in-law said.

Devi, however, had no access to a doctor, while a civilian hospital is only a kilometer away from his house.

Khavda, where Devi lives, is one of the few villages in Bhuj taluka, Kutch district, with a functioning civilian hospital. Residents of nearby villages Dinara, Ratadiya, Godpar and Dhoravar come to Khavda Civil Hospital for treatment.

“Going to the civilian hospital for a check-up means disclosing his (Devi’s) age to government doctors,” said the child’s brother-in-law, Mahesh*, rather reluctantly. “If there is a problem, we will take him to a private hospital in Bhuj or Anjar,” he added.

A visit to the private hospital, however, will cost money and with Devi’s husband and brother-in-law being the sole breadwinners in a family of nine, it could be difficult. The two men each earn 250 to 300 rupees a day.

Meanwhile, Gaura’s family, in the same village as Devi, have found a “solution”.

“With the help of an accredited social health worker (ASHA), we had a ‘Mamata card’ made… My last pregnancy was difficult. I was 14 years old and it was a premature delivery. My baby was admitted to a private hospital for over 40 days. It cost us Rs 2.5 lakh. We are still in debt. So this time we have a Mamta card,” she revealed.

So what is a Mamta card?

A Mamta card is the Gujarat government’s mother and child protection card that tracks hospital visits, examinations and vaccinations of pregnant and lactating women and their babies.

According to the Mamta map of Gaura, seen by The quintethis age from November 2022 is 21 years old. Another copy of the map says it is 26 years Old. Neither matches the age calculated from the date of birth on his Aadhaar card – July 8, 2004. According thisShe is 18 years old.

Hetal, the Anganwadi employee, explained, ‚ÄúSometimes ASHA employees issue Mamta cards based on what they are told. Many of these girls do not have Aadhaar cards. from ASHA also know that sometimes the age on the Mamta card is incorrect but what is the choice?”

She said that without a Mamta card, “most of these girls don’t have access to healthcare. They don’t go to civil hospitals out of fear and private clinics are unaffordable.”

A Mamta card, however, cannot guarantee that these women get a free ration under the MMY program. “For this, you need the Aadhaar card number,” Hetal informed.

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