Accredited Social Health Activists, also known as ASHAs, working in Madhya Pradesh villages are facing a dilemma while campaigning for family planning under the National Rural Health Mission. The condoms distributed by the activists as a part of the campaign is called ‘ASHA Nirodh’ and the villagers often shorten it to ASHA, causing embarrassment to the workers who too are called by the same name. The activists are now planning to file a petition in court requesting for a name change of the condoms.
“We are fondly addressed as Asha didi in rural areas, but the contraceptive named Asha is giving some uncomfortable moments to us as some people make occasional jokes about it,” an Asha worker wishing anonymity said. Amulya Nidhi, a health activist of Jan Swasthya Abiyan, said the name of the condom is being used to hurl vulgar taunts at ASHAs who are engaged in its distribution. For the time being, the ASHA workers in MP have declined to distribute these condoms among public.
AT Padmanabhan, state president of ASHA-USHA-ASHA Sahyogini Ekta Union said, “We have requested the State government to change the name of the condom. We have written a letter to the State Director of National Rural Health Mission requesting him to change the name of ASHA Nirodh as people have started making jokes about the name.” They have given a deadline to the state government or their last resort would be to approach court.
The activists have raised the name issue with officials several times since the condom’s name was changed from 'Deluxe Nirodh' to ‘ASHA Nirodh’ in 2016 by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry. The ASHA’s job under the National Health Mission involves creating awareness about safe sex and family planning. They dispense free contraceptives such as condoms, regular and emergency pills to villagers as part of the campaign.