In the summer of 1980, CARE-Gujarat placed an advertisement for a Nutritionist for their Community Development Program, in collaboration with The Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC). Not mentioned in the advertisement, the three criteria for selecting the candidate were willingness to travel 20 days a month to remote rural and tribal areas, knowledge of the local language and capacity to drive a four wheel jeep!
A fresh graduate from Maharaja Sayajirao University (M.S.U.), Vadodara, with a post graduate degree in Foods & Nutrition, Indu Capoor responded to the advertisement with enthusiasm and was subsequently appointed. Indu’s first assignment was to coordinate the Nutrition and Health Education program developed by a senior scientist started in 1978, for the slum children who visited the science centre. Minaxi Shukla who was working on the nutrition programme at VASCSC volunteered to assist her in translating documents into the local language. With a specialisation in Nutrition, Indu could address problems and doubts concerning these and was therefore frequently consulted. Her involvement was encouraged and appreciated by others, particularly by the Managing Trustee, Nehru Foundation for Development, Padma Shri Kartikeya Sarabhai.
Following this, a pilot program was proposed, which would cover 100 villages, spread across ten blocks, all over Gujarat, including tribal, rural and urban centres. This was proposed with the view to develop suitable educational strategies for the entire state. The name given to the program was INHAP (Integrated Nutrition And Health Action Program). A year later Pallavi Naik, who had been a junior of Indu at MSU joined the project to share responsibility. Later, Minaxi Shukla, who had started volunteering time joined the project formally. The team came to be known as the ‘Trio’ and the organisation known as Centre for Health Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness (CHETNA) emerged as an independent activity, under the umbrella of Nehru Foundation for Development
This phase was action oriented. In order to conduct meetings more effectively, which were organised all over Gujarat, resource material, who was prepared in simple language with attractive visuals. The materials were related to information about programmes and activities on Nutrition and Health.
Several programmes were conducted in Ahmedabad with St. Xavier’s, Non-Formal Education Trust at Gulbai Tekra (urban slum) for increasing awareness about nutrition among women managing homes in different housing societies.
The material produced under this program during this course of time, was mass produced by the Government of Gujarat for their supplementary feeding centres all over the state. This led to greater publicity of the teams work and soon visitors lined up the VASCSC, querying about their Health and Nutrition program.
UNICEF, Delhi approached the team to develop an educational kit on Childcare, emphasising the Growth Monitoring, Oral rehydration, Breastfeeding, Immunisation, Family Planning & Female Education (GOBIFF) messages. CHETNA conducted extensive field testing in various districts of Uttar Pradesh. It was basically to be prepared for the Hindi speaking belt.
To demystify knowledge on health they started developing information packages. The Bal Sevika (Child Care) kit, Anaemia and Women’s Health Kit were among the first information packages that were developed.
A workshop organised for Training Centres of Crèche workers in 1982 provided an opportunity to understand Integrated Child Development Scheme ICDS. In May 1984, Ila Vakharia joined as the fourth member of the team. Jyoti Gade, a trainer who had participated in the training, joined the team in August 1984.
1984-85 was the year of many firsts. An exhibition of Nutrition & Health material was showcased in Delhi. The first Maternal Care Health Training was conducted, exposing the team to the existing delivery practices in rural and tribal areas. In her enthusiasm, Indu sent the INHAP report to several funding agencies, which caught the Ford Foundation Indian representative’s eye. Impressed, he approached Kartikeya Sarabhai, Managing Trustee of Nehru Foundation, enquiring about the origin of the report.
In August 1984, CHETNA received a core grant from Ford Foundation on Child Survival Project CHETNA moved to a rented building on Drive-in road behind Drive-in cinema which was fondly called Parde-ke-peeche (behind the curtains)
By now, CHETNA was widely recognised as a resource centre for nutrition and health activities, especially for capacity building training and development of educational material.
A year long participatory evaluation process, facilitated by PRIA, New Delhi during 1990 enabled reflections and widening of the perspective of CHETNA team. During this period, CHETNA formulated its vision and mission and moved from mother and child health to women’s health in the life cycle approach with focus on Traditional Health and Healing Practices as a strategy.
CHETNA has completed more than 30 years journey and empowered itself with knowledge and skills related to capacity building of organisations working on the issues of women, young people and children, developing health communication material, networking and advocating for comprehensive and gender sensitive women, young people and children’s policies and programmes. During this period CHETNA has received several awards for its work.
Today CHETNA, by networking with other partner NGOs at state, national and international levels, works to bring forward the voices and realities of communities at the policy formation and programme planning levels. The methods include organising consultations and ensuring participation of the community level stakeholders and civil society. CHETNA has also participated in the creating national and state level policies for women’s empowerment Youth and Children. CHETNA takes its learning and understanding to the South Asian Region through its partnerships in the region.
CHETNA is recognised by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, as a Regional Resource Centre (RRC) for Gujarat State and the Union Territories of Dadra Nagar Haveli and Diu, to support the implementation of Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) programme. The RRC provides technical support to partner NGOs for enhancing access to health services in areas underserved by the public health system.
Committed to development of women, young people and children to take control over their own, their families’ and communities’ health and development, CHETNA continues to strive for their empowerment.