Sunehri Devi peels potatoes, makes tea for her sick mother-in-law, and worries about the family budget.
Will the unexpected rain ruin their crop? She feels the eight-month-old foetus in her belly kick. The moneylender is insisting on immediate repayment, and the roof needs to be repaired. There’s a lot on her mind.
Delivering timely messages
Then the family’s mobile phone rings. Sunehri answers it and hears a two-minute recorded message. The voice of Dr Anita says that if her baby is born at a primary health care centre it will be immunised there automatically, but if the delivery takes place at home, she must remember to take the baby for immunisation within seven days.
Last week, the message was that she must feed the first yellow breast milk to the baby as soon as it is born.
The phone service, called ‘Kilkari’ (a baby’s gurgle), delivers time-appropriate information to families that include pregnant women or infants. Every week for sixteen months, starting from the sixth month of pregnancy up until the baby is a year old, it offers subscribers important reminders and information relevant to each woman’s individual stage of pregnancy and motherhood.
From reminding a woman to take her iron pills to reminding her to start feeding her six-month-old semi-solid foods , it delivers critical information at the right time for each person. That way, Sunehri has one less thing to worry about.
Ensuring the message is heard
A few weeks ago Sunehri’s husband forgot his phone in a teashop, so they missed their weekly message, but the service kept trying to reach them until they had retrieved the phone and were able to take the call.
Recently, when the balance on the phone was down to nothing, ‘Kilkari’ put their service pack into suspension free of cost. As soon as the balance was topped up, the service was reinstated.
Sunehri’s family is poor, like most in rural Bihar, but they can afford the Rs 1 ($0.018) weekly charge.
Sunehri’s sister-in-law Radha, who is nursing a one-month old, subscribes to the service that begins from birth until the child’s first birthday. The last call that Radha received reminded her that her fertility is now returning and that she should talk to the ASHA about planning her family.
‘Kilkari’ uses below-the-line marketing strategies at the village, town and haat (marketplace) levels. For instance flipbooks, banners, standees, PA systems and stickers are distributed at the village level. Vans and kiosks are added at the town level. At haats, there are vans, umbrellas, and PA systems. Shaping Demand and Practices also works with mobile network operators and Community Health Workers.
Other promotional activities include the ‘Kilkari’ song offered as a free ringtone. A promotional campaign called “Baap # 1” (#1 Dad), targets men, who are generally the financial decision makers in a family, encouraging them to subscribe to the service for the benefit of their wives and children.
‘Kilkari’ serves as a personal health secretary for thousands of families during the most vulnerable 16-month period in the life of a mother and child. Created using low-cost Interactive Voice Response technology, it is designed to convey simple messages that reinforce life-saving health behaviours.