A group of women in West Bengal gathers to learn about anemia.
Seventeen year-old Sumaiya is exuberant. After receiving health education through her youth group in West Bengal, she has been a vocal advocate for nutritious diets and preventing child marriages. She spreads her new knowledge to her young friends and hopes to study nutrition if she attends college.
A health crisis can thrust a family more deeply into poverty, but health education and access build the pathway out for women like Sumaiya. Now, thanks to a collaboration between our Freedom from Hunger India Trust, Results Educational Fund, and six local Indian partners, Grameen Foundation is reaching 370,000 women and girls like Sumaiya across West Bengal with health and nutrition education.
As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8th, we are celebrating young women like Sumaiya who boldly stand for change. Equipped with the knowledge she received through our program, she is doing all she can to improve health and nutrition in her community in India.
Although many communities are already benefitting from the education, the scope of the problem is enormous. Countrywide, 1 in 3 children has stunted growth due to malnutrition, often causing lifelong impacts on cognition and health. Anemia, caused by iron deficiency, is another pervasive problem in India, affecting over half of women and nearly 70% of young children. The condition heightens the risk of infection and can cause pregnancy complications. It weakens the body and causes fatigue. For populations that rely heavily on manual labor for their livelihoods, anemia can take both a financial and a physical toll.
Using our health curriculum, groups of women and girls gather to learn about anemia. Pictures and illustrations convey what anemia is, how to recognize it and how to prevent it with a diet high in iron and vitamin C. Mothers learn how to protect their adolescent daughters from anemia by cooking iron-rich foods at home.
Excited about the course, many young women are taking their new knowledge into their communities. Sumaiya is one of them. Using what she has learned about anemia and good nutrition she encourages her family and friends to eat “tri-colored foods” to ensure they are getting balanced meals. Now they add vegetables high in iron, such as spinach, to their family meals. They also know when to seek help and where to go to get a blood test to diagnose anemia.
Empowering women with health and nutrition knowledge gives them tools to protect their families from illness. This reduces suffering and saves precious resources that otherwise may have been spent on medical care. For families facing the daily challenges of poverty, health knowledge is a valuable asset worth sharing with others, as Sumaiya has.