Updated: June 16, 2021 1:29:57 am
Every morning since October last year, Binal Rathwa, 19, and her father Rasik, a primary school teacher in Chhota Udepur district embark on his two-wheeler, covering a cluster of the tribal villages with a mission: create awareness about Covid-19 among the tribal population. Earlier, the father-daughter duo attempted to create awareness about Covid-19 among the tribals who continued to call the virus a “spirit” that had possessed mankind, and for the last four months, the focus has shifted to encouraging vaccinations among the largely illiterate population.
Binal, a second-year science student at MS University of Vadodara, along with her father, has covered over 80 villages in her tribal home district of Chhota Udepur in a span of four months since the beginning of the vaccination drive, speaking to the members of the Rathwa tribe about science, virus, vaccinations, and healthcare — words that the population does not regard much.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Binal said, “When the lockdown opened up in October, I thought of reaching out to the people in our home district. The tribal population is illiterate and believes a lot of local shamans, who make them believe in superstitions and do not allow them to seek appropriate treatment. During the first wave of Covid-19, the people continued to believe that the virus was nothing but a spirit possessing people. It was only during the second wave that they began to understand why testing and hospitalisation was necessary.”
In her conversations with the locals, in their native tribal dialect, Binal begins asking the group if she should consider getting vaccinated for Covid-19.
“Prompt comes the reply that if I take the jab, I will die in five years. They have this rigid mindset that injections kill you and vaccinations are not for your good. The moment they see health workers, they believe they have been sent to kill the locals. There is a deep-rooted mistrust among the people against science and government. My father and I have visited the villages multiple times to win their confidence being locals and encourage them to listen to the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines.”
Binal, a resident of Nalej village in Chhota Udepur taluka of the district, is currently volunteering for the district health department for the last fortnight. “I intend to go back to doing the awareness campaign on my own with my father, in the remotest places, once the government drive ends on Thursday. I think the tribals are slowly opening up to vaccinations and beginning to understand the gravity of the illness. But a lot of work goes into making them listen to you.”
Binal, who has been attending online university classes due to the lockdown says her teachers have been supportive of her campaign and MSU has also lauded her efforts.
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