What does it take to save a life?

A supportive mayor

The mayor and six people from his village standing in front of a wall.

When Amrendra Kumar was elected to be the pradhan—or mayor—of the village of Devpuri, he thought he’d be supplying water pumps and getting roads fixed. “I had no idea I would get so involved in women’s issues,” he says.

Like many villagers, Amrendra didn’t realize that the majority of maternal and newborn deaths are preventable. Even if he had, as a man, he didn’t think it was his place to do anything about it.

All that changed when the staff of PATH’s Sure Start project met with him. They taught Amrendra how to organize a Village Health and Sanitation Committee and design a health plan. Most important, they convinced him to be a champion for maternal and child health.

A new leadership role

“Before Sure Start, people in the village only had home births. Hygiene wasn’t taken care of and there were infections,” Amrendra says. “There were many newborn deaths.” But in the last four years, he reports, the majority of village births have been at health facilities, and there has not been a single death of an infant or mother.

Amrendra helped bring about the change by raising the profile of maternal and child health in the village political process and by encouraging other men to become involved. Under his leadership, the village committee negotiated better transportation rates for women in labor who need a ride to the health center, set up an emergency medical fund, and lined up potential blood donors for when excessive bleeding during and after childbirth threatens a mother’s life.

How it feels to save a life

In addition, Amrendra presents pregnant women, their husbands, and their mothers-in-law with a traditional clay coin bank. “Use it to save for transportation and medical costs,” he counsels them.

Amrendra’s sense of achievement in his newfound mission goes deep. “When I save the life of any family member, I receive respect. People believe in me. My confidence level also goes up. I’m taking more of a role in this work, and I see the success.”