Connecting local responses around the world
Mrs. Leelawathie, a sixty year old woman from Manajjawa, Sri Lanka explains how she got involved in health promotion activities and the changes in her life after that.
“I had only been educated up to 4th grade. Because of that I was not confident enough to speak out even in village meetings, thinking
that I will not have meaningful things to share as I was low in education
level. A group of neighbours –women, got me involved, literally by force, in a
health programme that they conducted. I attended the first meeting merely
because I could not refuse, and was planning to leave as soon as possible
pretending a stomach problem. However, as the discussions rolled out I realized
that I too can play a vital part. It really boosted my level of
self-confidence. Time really flew and I forgot all about leaving early. There, even I had a say!
Then, everyone was learning how to calculate BMI. It was "Greek" to me at first, as I never knew anything more than adding up and subtracting two numbers. I
tried to avoid that section. Later, with some positive encouragement from my colleagues and the facilitators, I thought to my self “running away is
chicken” and wanted to learn it. I asked from one of the younger women and she
taught me how to calculate the BMI. As soon as I got home, I borrowed a
calculator from the boutique next door and started practicing. I practiced and
practiced until early in the morning. By the following morning, I mastered the
“art”. It was I who calculated the BMI of all who was attending the camps (health promotion camps that the community members were conducting) in
all ten camps we conducted. My mother always regretted the fact that she
couldn’t educated me well. However, now she says that she is proud of me for what I do now.
I used to inhale drugs for asthma. However, after engaging in health promoting activities, I have never got an attack for over one year now”
“I was hoping to get some medical advice when I heard about a health camp at our village. I took all my medical records. However, what I saw was completely different to what I expected. There was a group of ordinary men and
women who were discussing about various aspects of life and health and, I don’t
know by which miracle, but I entered into, literally a trans. I wanted to be
engaged, I wanted to get involved. I kind of by force got involved in the other
camps; I learnt a lot quickly. Now I make visual material and try to educate
others I meet in my day-to-day life.
Having sparked our enthusiasm by the camps, we broaden the issues we got involved in. We knew about a village which was discriminated by other villages. They even had a nickname for that village. We thought we need to
change this and visited house by house trying to build up a relationship with
the villagers. We did a health promotion camp in that village. They were
invited to our houses for functions and parties. With these efforts, 25
children who had stopped going to the village school some time back restarted
schooling. Our children welcomed them at school. Now the nickname is never used
to identify the village. Everyone calls the village by its proper name”.