Noreen began by stating the way the network has marked itself in her mind. She recognized BCSNPN as a forum bringing prominent individuals and organizations together very well in recent times, united behind a common goal of improving nutrition in Bangladesh. She believes that there was a need for this kind of platform where people come and discuss some of the very complex multi-sectoral issues involved in addressing nutrition. She added that it is not always possible for Government to address each and every single issue by bringing various sectors within different ministries together, which the network can do easily. Therefore, the civil society working in partnership with Government has the potential to reach out with solutions to all kinds of nutritional issues all through the country.
She termed nutrition as a critical issue and said “It is a lot about behavior and is something that has to be dealt outside the clinic and formal structure in addition to within formal structures”. Civil society networks can use innovative approaches to reach people and to influence behaviors using multiple means and channels. She, therefore, added that by bringing together all relevant experts in the same room, the issue can be handled efficiently.
The role of civil society on nutrition is to mobilize to create demand & interest in nutrition and create an aspiration in the society to be better nourished”
She suggests the network to work with issues related to nutrition like access to nutritious diets for young children through the agriculture sector, the rights of people and gender. She made the point clearer by giving the example of how early marriage of girls in Bangladesh impacts the nutritional status of the country. Getting married at a very early age, there is a possibility that these girls will give birth to children not of healthy weight. She, therefore, believes that the network with the influential people as its member has the scope to focus in such diversified issues and address the bigger goal of nutrition. She also thinks that the consumer groups can play a vital role as well in collaboration with the civil society. Consumer groups and civil society can advocate for compliance with Government standards for food quality and can lobby for compliance with codes and guidelines related to marketingof foods.
She mentioned UNICEF’s focus on the area to guide the employers to encourage the mothers to continue breastfeeding even after they return to work. She also cited that Government is the key partner of UNICEF in any country and talked about ways to balance partnership giving instances like using the contacts, human resource and existing platform of the civil society, UN and other Development Partners bringing in external experts and financing when required.
Chief, Nutrition Section