In Mizoram, a Struggle to Protect Women From Cervical Cancer

By Himanshi Dahiya, India

The following is an excerpt from an article written by a reporter who was part of a Sabin-supported program for journalists. As part of the program, they covered stories on HPV and cervical cancer in low and middle-income countries.

Premia Shulet’s separation from her husband Peter Shulet was all anybody could talk about in Thinghlun, a thinly populated village of 800 people in Mizoram’s Mamit district — six hours and 160 km away from the state capital Aizawl.

“They couldn’t stomach why I left Peter,” said 22-year-old Premia, a mother of two, as she chased her younger son Benjamin with a bottle of milk.

Tired after a few minutes, she stopped to catch her breath and continued her pursuit. “Last year some healthcare workers came to our house and told me that I should get screened for cervical cancer. Peter refused despite them telling us that I might be at a high risk of contracting the virus that causes the cancer. I didn’t say much at the time… But earlier this year, he and his family refused to let our children get vaccinated. That is where I drew the line and decided to walk out,” she said, seated inside her one-room bamboo house in Thinghlun.

Premia and her family belong to the Pawl Chhuak community, colloquially known as the “outlaws” or those who do not follow the mainstream churches in Mizoram, a state with 87 percent Christian population. “The Pawl Chhuaks do not believe in getting vaccinated or screened for diseases. It is against the rules followed by their tribes,” explained Chhuantei, a worker at the government-run Community Health Centre (CHC) in the village.

While Chhuantei lauded Premia’s stand against her family, the church, and the norms, worry still consumed her.  “I am glad she took a stand for her children and got them vaccinated but what about her own health? At 22, she is a mother of two. This puts her at a higher risk of contracting cervical cancer than most women her age. If detected early, she can seek treatment and even recover,” Chhuantei added.


Read the full article on The Quint website.

About this Article

Sabin through its Immunization Advocates program supported journalists based in Bolivia, Egypt, Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Venezuela and Zimbabwe interested in working on in-depth investigative reports about HPV vaccination and cervical cancer. Grantees were selected in concert with Sabin partners International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) — as part of the Global Health Reporting Initiative — and Internews. Sabin connected grantees to expertise and information about HPV and cervical cancer and continues to engage with journalists across low- and middle-income countries who are seeking to report on these topics.