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Anna Rana is passionate about health.

She's a familiar sight to neighbors, sharing messages about cooking and eating healthy food and getting regular medical check-ups.

When a woman in her neighborhood fell ill while her husband was away, Anna immediately took her to the hospital for care. Before, even Anna herself might have waited for the woman's husband to return before seeking care. Now, she understands the risks of waiting.

Anna learned about health and nutrition through the Rajasthan Nutrition Program, a collaboration of Grameen Foundation and Freedom from Hunger India Trust, with Amedabad-based training partner, Chetna, and two local organizations, PRADAN and Vaagdhara. The project works with self-help groups in rural India to educate women on health and nutrition. Self-groups play a vital role in India, enabling women to come together to save and borrow money. Anna, treasurer of her local self-help group, was trained as a Community Nutrition Advocate. She speaks regularly to her group members, as well as neighbors, about nutrition, hygiene and maternal and child health. The program also connected the women to local health services, taught them money management and facilitated discussions about balancing gender roles in households.

In her own home, Anna cooks with an iron pot and serves raw vegetables at meals to add more nutrients to her family’s diet. She also insists on them eating meals together—in communities where women often eat last and get the least amount of food, this ensures more equitable portions.

When her daughter-in-law became pregnant, Anna ensured she received regular check-ups at the local health clinic, took iron and folic acid tablets, and rested. When her own daughter gave birth, Anna took her home to make sure she had proper care and food. For both, Anna stressed the importance of breastfeeding the baby within an hour of birth to ensure baby’s get the nutrition-rich colostrum or “first milk.”

Two years after the program began, we are seeing positive results. Three-fourths more of the women were breastfeeding their babies within an hour of birth. More families are eating meals together, their diets are more diverse, food security has improved, and more than half of the women said they had saved more money in the previous six months.

For Anna, her volunteer work has become a mission to ensure women in her community get the education and support they need to make wise decisions for their families.