An ongoing programme, called Sakhi, to promote and deliver health services to underprivileged communities has apparently helped over one lakh people each year. This is a project by Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF), the CSR arm of Ambuja Cements Ltd. Under this health and sanitation intervention, a group of women volunteers called Sakhis are trained in healthcare. They then deliver preventive health services and facilitate access to preventive, promotive and curative services.

Launched in 2005, the project has been implemented in 194 villages across Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. To date, 352 women have been trained as Sakhis. All of them are from local communities and understand the existing challenges intimately. More than 110 Sakhis have been absorbed as accredited social health activists (ASHAs), community health workers instituted by the country’s ministry of health and family welfare as part of the National Rural Health Mission.

Through the ‘village health functionaries’, ACF primarily focuses on maternal, child and adolescent health, communicable and non-communicable diseases, and total sanitation and curative health. These healthcare services are delivered via mobile medicare units, community health clinics, diagnostic centres, specialised health camps, etc.

The project collaborates with various state governments’ health departments, panchayats, village health and sanitation committees, corporates and NGOs. ACF, which recently celebrated its silver jubilee year, is working to further strengthen and expand this initiative and has sought more strategic collaborations.

CB’s questions on what parameters are used for impact assessment and whether Sakhis are paid salaries by ACF did not receive any response.

In a press release shared with CB, Ambuja Cement Foundation Head Pearl Tiwari said, ‘ACF realises the need to create more awareness on health and sanitation in rural India, which will lead to sustainable progress. We believe that women are important change agents in every community and our Sakhis are one of the best examples to prove this.’