Ghulam Mustafa Sheikh and his family carry difficult memories of a February ten years ago. His mother was pregnant with another child, and went into labour that month. But their village, Dudran, in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district, was cut off from the rest of the region by heavy snow.
The family was forced to carry her on their shoulders to the nearest primary health centre, in Boniyar, around 15 km away. “On our way down, her girl child began to hang out of her,” Sheikh said. “We couldn’t do anything to save the child. She died battling the freezing weather.”
Pregnant women in India’s “LoC villages”, near the Line of Control with Pakistan, face similar struggles every year. Years of cross-border conflict have left these villages with poor health infrastructure, forcing women to travel hours for their deliveries.
“The kind of courage and resilience they show while fighting these odds is remarkable,” Aswani said. “But their lives should not be facing risks because the government fails to provide facilities.” She added, “Meeting new and old mothers, and ASHA workers made me think about how women in the valley strive to ease each other’s pain, whether it means giving each other the motivation to travel long distances through painful times, or sharing supplies, and experiences of battling the same problems to console each other.”
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