Matri Sudha’s mission is to help urban slum children in South East Delhi through social empowerment projects, bringing social change from the grass roots and mobilising people from within the community to uphold their rights.
Putting public health nutrition on the agenda
Public health nutrition is now a key focus area for the organisation but it wasn’t always our approach, nor was it my area of expertise. We came across a government report in 2012 which looked at child malnutrition in Delhi and I started reading more and more journals and learnt about how malnutrition is linked to various other aspects of adolescent health, diarrhoea, pneumonia, and child brain development and we also studied the laws, policies and programmes impacting food security and nutrition in India. It is now my dream, and Matri Sudha’s mission, to improve India’s nutritional status.
We started working at the grass roots level to improve the child and maternal welfare centres usually called ‘Anganwadi centres’ under the government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and to strengthen their linkages with the wider health systems. We work with adolescents, pregnant women, lactating mothers and children below the age of six on both preventive and curative aspects of malnutrition in early childhood years.
At Matri Sudha, I lead our work with families to improve their nutritional status, our research work, and our advocacy efforts to improve the nutrition governance issues in Delhi. As a result of Matri Sudha’s research, we filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Delhi High Court to implement the Food Security Act of 2013 and constitution of State Food Commission as an independent body to monitor the nutrition issues in Delhi.
Knowledge, Networks and Nutrition Champions
I enrolled in the Transform Nutrition Short Course in 2015 to deepen my knowledge and I remember on the very first day there was a moment when everyone stood up to introduce themselves – and then it was my turn. I stood up and I said I am neither a public health nutritionist nor a doctor, I am a social worker and I am here for 7 days to understand exactly what public health nutrition is all about.
I knew I wouldn’t understand everything in 7 days but I knew I could take whatever I did learn and incorporate it with my own work to improve our programing at Matri Sudha.
For example, on the third and fourth day of the course we had in-depth discussions about how to evaluate community based programmes. On my return, I discussed with my colleagues in Matri Sudha how our own programme could be revised to make sure the objectives were clear, that we understand why we are implementing the programme and how it can be evaluated. We now have a clear set of goals, objectives, outcomes and outputs so that we can monitor and evaluate its progress, identify challenges, and adapt our approach as we learn.
We have also adopted Transform Nutrition’s approach to supporting Nutrition Champions, who could be the primary care giver, school based nutrition champion or community health worker, or anyone promoting the overall goal of child nutrition within the community. We have developed a programme to identify and highlight the good work of people within the community in order to support their efforts and encourage others to do the same. So far, 12 such Nutrition Champions have been created as our first step toward improving the nutritional status within the community.
One of the key features of the Transform Nutrition course was that it provided a platform to express your views, share your opinions and an excellent opportunity to come into the network of people with different backgrounds and make good friends. For example, I have recently authored a review paper on Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices in India with a colleague I met on the Transform Nutrition short course.