On a hot Monday afternoon, Sunita walks door to door visiting houses in an urban slum in Chandigarh, India. She weighs children, asks their mothers how well they are eating, counsels them on nutritious foods, and checks on expecting mothers.
When one of the women asks Sunita how her daughter Ananya is doing Sunita’s, face breaks into a big smile, “She’s busy doing nothing. Enjoying her summer vacation,” she says.
Soon after, a group of women gathers in the shade of a banyan tree for the weekly community meeting. Sunita and her colleagues take turns speaking to the women about health issues. She is one of the fourteen health promoters working for Developing Indigenous Resources (DIR), Vitamin Angels’ field partner in this community. Sunita and the other health promoters are famously known as the “mini doctors” of DIR. When it is Sunita’s turn, she enthusiastically talks about the advantages of Vitamin Angels’ prenatal multivitamins for pregnant women.
Later that day, Sunita tells us, “I wasn’t like this earlier, I would be nervous around people. I didn’t know anything about medical science before I joined DIR. It was here that I learned basic science, nutrition, and community health, and that’s how I am able to help these women.” DIR has been a life-line for Sunita, giving her a sense of purpose and an opportunity to change her own life for the better.
Sunita is a single mother who has overcome numerous challenges in her life through sheer grit and determination. At the age of 21, Sunita was married off and had to move from Chandigarh to a small village in Bihar to live with her husband’s family. Alone, Sunita faced dowry demands and threats for the next four years. When she got pregnant, she was sent back to Chandigarh to her parents. Upon giving birth to a baby girl, her husband told her not to come back.
With a child to take care of, Sunita began to seek opportunities to support herself. She attended a skills development course in tailoring presented by DIR and went on to join the organization working as a health promoter. Things were looking up.
However, a year into the job, Sunita bowed to family demands and returned to her husband and in-law in Bihar. Their reconciliation was short-lived as they started to subject her to domestic abuse again. This time, however, Sunita decided to leave her marriage and return to Chandigarh for good.
Sunita’s strength and perseverance have made a lasting impression on ten-year-old Ananya, who looks up to her mother and wants to be like her when she grows up. Providing better opportunities for her daughter, and all of those she comes into contact with, are a daily motivation for Sunita who says, “I do not want any other mother and child to go through the things that we’ve gone through. Through my work, I am constantly motivating mothers to make sure that their children, especially girls, are healthy and give their children the best education possible. These are your biggest assets, and you should safeguard them.”