From Khanshama and Chirirbandar in Dinajpur district

Work, get feedback, advocate to improve nutrition status in Bangladesh

During a visit to Khanshama and chirirbandar upazilla in Dinajpur revealed that a developmental organization named Plan Bangladesh initiated a project WEENI (Women Empowerment through Economic and Nutritional Improvement project) in an effort to improve women empowerment and, therefore, improve nutrition. This project was designed for the period of 2011- 2012. The beneficiary groups were the women aged 10 to 49 (the adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating mother, women) and the children less than two years of age.

The beneficiary mothers, women and the adolescent girls were interviewed. Mrs. Sufia Begum said that, Bohubrihi, a local NGO is working here with the assistance of Plan Bangladesh and provides services like, BCC, weight control tips, nutritional status analysis and advocacy, income generating programmes, community health programs etc. when she was asked if there is any NGO in their locality working for women empowerment and children nutrition. She was also asked to define women empowerment. In her response, Sufia said that the project team has suggested the community to respect women’s opinion while making any family decission and to treat all children equally irrespective of their gender.

Shatimon Roy,a pregnant mother from viael village said that there is significant improvement in the nutritional status of the children under 2 years of age, adeloscent girls and women, the treatment seeking behavior of the mothers and children improved, the maternal and child mortality rate declined, women are now getting more opportunity to engage themselves in income generating activities and are more empowered when she was  asked by the interviewer that what sorts of improvement she noticed after initiation of the project at her locality. Alike Sufia also acknowledged the increased women participation in the families  and admired the recent awareness among the male members of the family on women and childers rights. She expressed her satisfaction about the quality of the service provided she received under the project. However she thout that the project was conducted for a very short time, which she considered as a limitation of the project. Therefore, she requested to increase the duration of the project in some vulnerable areas.

About Implementation process of the project and its overall activities, Sharif Reza a local officer of PLAN Bangladesh at Khanshama said that they are using the local social resources, increasing motivation through awareness, enhancing skills of women and human resource developemnt, developing coordination and cooperation with various public and private sectors, creating demand of quality services, promoting farming and communication campaigns to  implement the project accordingly. He said regular coordination meetings with  other organisations (Union parishad, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Agriculture and Animal Resource Division, Department of Women and Children Affairs, Social Welfare Department, Community leaders) and meetings with respective departments are being held regularly. As the adeloscent girls are mostly school going, the team members of the project found it difficult to monitor them. So, these girls were monitored during weekends. He also added that the women of the locality are more empowered than ever before with the aid of the income generating activities’ training through the project. The under previlaged women were also encouraged to participate in ‘Safety Net Programe’. He also assured that the project will bring significant improvement in maternal and child health and will reduce maternal and child mortality in the locality.In context of project monitoring, Sharif Reza said that the overall quality of the work has been ensured by establishing direct contact with field staff and family members and through joint field visits, monthly-quarterly report & record review.

It can be concluded that this kind of projects and efforts can bring about a change in the nutritious status in our country. However, considering the request of the beneficiaries, these kinds of projects should be conducted for a longer duration, for 5- 6 years. In addition, it is essential to conduct surveys to get feedbacks of the projects to come up with a better service, and therefore a better outcome, from the upcoming efforts.

Considering the present nutrition status of Bangladesh- millions of children and women are dying and nearly 70 percents of total population are suffering from under nutrition due to lack of nutrition education in Bangladesh- we along with government should take initiatives to educate our people at mass level regarding nutrition.

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