From Financial Independence to Nutritional Security: Raising the Wellness Bar
Several women residing at Biora block, Rajgarh district, Madhya Pradesh, have been part of women’s collectives, also called Self-Help Groups (SHGs), for the last 5-7 years. Each week, these women get together to discuss issues related to their livelihoods, such as agriculture, poultry etc. One of the agendas is to discuss the possibilities of accessing loans from the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) that help them opt for better livelihood options. Each member of the group also contributes a small amount of money to a kitty that can be used to support a member in need.
The third week of December 2021 was, however, slightly different. Diverging from the usual discussion topics, a new topic was introduced to them, ‘benefits of a balanced diet’. An SHG didi, whom a team from PCI India had trained, explained that a balanced diet is one that has foods of at least three colours and that each household member should consume at least 5 out of 10 food groups, drawn from locally available foods. She explained the concept of food groups through a large pictorial chart that she placed on the floor. She then asked each woman to bring raw food items from her home and place them in the appropriate food group box on the chart. The exercise was enjoyable and the women learnt something new about good foods and their benefits! Since then, each month, a new health and nutrition related subject is discussed in one of their monthly meetings.
The DAY-NRLM is world’s largest poverty alleviation program, that aims to touch upon the lives of more than 70 million women, by forming them into women’s collectives, supporting them through micro-credit and skill development programs and connecting them to social security schemes. As the name suggests, the program is largely focused on livelihoods generation and household financial security to alleviate poverty. India uses the multidimensional poverty index to define poverty, an index that includes indicators on health, education and standard of living. The National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report 2021 indicates that 25% of India’s population remains ‘multi-dimensionally’ poor. To adopt a more holistic approach to poverty elimination, the DAY-NRLM in 2016, included social development indicators such as food security, health, nutrition, WASH and gender into its core strategy.
The Technical Assistance to DAY-NRLM (TA to DAY-NRLM) project was initiated by PCI in 2021 to support the DAY-NRLM to reach messages on health and nutrition to all SHG women. The Biora block of MP is one of the sites at which PCI is attempting to demonstrate a change in behaviour of SHG women and their families by using participatory and innovative behavior change techniques to reiterate messages on good health and nutrition practices.
Written by: Dr. Amrita Misra, Lead, TA to DAY-NRLM, Health and Nutrition and Alok Kundu, State Program Manager, Madhya Pradesh