As I lie in bed sick today, I have been reflecting on what it would mean for a woman at the Dolls4Tibet workshop to take a “sick day”. The other day, a Tibetan woman from the workshop was telling me how for the past couple of months she has been trying to figure out what is wrong with her and find medication that will help alleviate some of the pain. She ended up having to take a month off of work to travel to New Delhi to seek medical assistance, however when she returned to Dharamsala the pain and other symptoms continued. She went back to a hospital in Dharamsala, but because her Hindi or English isn’t very good she wasn’t able to communicate her problems to the doctor very well. Thankfully, Mona, the owner of Dolls4Tibet has arranged for a translator to go with her so that there would be less miscommunication this time.
This makes me wonder how many other Tibetans living in Dharamsala have had the same problem of miscommunication while trying to seek help for medical conditions. Are they aware that there are services available for them, such as translators, or other means of assistance? This experience has shown me that one of the major problems in the health care system is getting the word out there on the types of services that are available. I think this is also a major problem in Canada as well. We can create all of these programs, and services but if no one is aware of them, then what is the point?
I think this notion can also be applied to development programs in general, if there is no involvement of the community or no awareness then the program would be stuck at a standstill. As we had learned in our preparations, negative impacts of development programs can occur when the local community does not manage the volunteer program, or if the there is no cooperation between the local community and the foreign volunteer program. This can lead to tense relationships between the two actors, and can disrupt the power balance. Furthermore, when there is no collaboration between the two actors it can also disempower the community members and lead to actions that resemble colonialism behaviours.
In addition, when women at the workshop miss work due to an illness, it doesn’t often mean that they are at home lying in bed all day. Most women will try to do as much piecework as they can at home so that there are not missing an entire day’s of work. Like in many small businesses there is no one to “cover” their shift, so often when a woman takes a large amount of time off work it not only impacts the livelihood of the woman, but it also takes its toll on the business as a whole. This makes me wonder if there is government support in situations like these where an employee is required to take a long leave of absence due to an illness? This is a question that definitely requires more investigation.
Health care and the role of the government are key aspects that almost every state struggles with. When thinking about how complex and diverse the cultures are in Dharamsala alone, I can’t imagine trying to implement government programs or health care services that are readily accessible to everyone in this environment.