VILLAGE JAN ANDOLANS ON NUTRITION IN MADHYA PRADESH
The SHG platforms of Madhya Pradesh are being leveraged to improve health and nutrition literacy in rural communities by the Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihoods Mission (MPSRLM), using a multi-pronged social behaviour change approach. The MPSRLM, which is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) under the Ministry of Rural Development, is a proven platform for rural women to enhance their capacities, skills and livelihoods, to achieve overall well-being of their family. In year 2022, more than 51.60 lakh women and their households are associated with self-help groups under MPSRLM. Even though the numbers are large, the women form a cohesive group by remaining connected with each other through telephone or social media. On a day-to-day basis, the Mission leadership uses these channels to communicate with SHGs. However, from time to time, the Mission depends on mass campaigns to get messages across and move the groups towards specific outcomes. The Government of India too finds merit in mass and local campaigns, mobilizing SHGs for Poshan Abhiyaan, Poshan Pakhwara, Millet Mission and other such events.
MPSRLM is supported by PCI through a technical assistance unit to integrate health and nutrition in SHG structures. Health and nutrition integration is being done using a multi-touch point approach of which community campaigns are an important component. The layered structure of SHGs is well placed to organize campaigns and streamline the cascading of key messages on the ground.
In each village, a collective body of representatives from the SHGs of that village has been created. This is called a Village Organization (VO) and comprises 120-140 women and there are 39,258 VOs in the state. With the active involvement of VO representatives, nutrition focused activities are organized at each village, the main among them being a village level campaign. The village-level awareness generation campaigns are targeted at pregnant and lactating women and their family members. To ensure that messages reach the larger community, the village campaigns are open to the public, and participation of non-SHG persons is also encouraged. The campaign is organized in close collaboration with field level workers like ASHA, Anganwadi and Panchayati Raj Institution members. This year, improved family diet diversity has been the key theme of the village campaigns. To demonstrate family diet diversity (FDD), participants are asked to fetch raw food items from their own nutri-garden or home at the village center where a chart of food groups is displayed. The raw materials are grouped into 10 food groups on the chart by participants so that they understand what is meant by a food group, and develop clarity on the number of food groups are required for a daily adequately diverse diet. Short videos, stories, experience sharing is also used for SBCC. The active involvement of multiple community platforms provides greater credibility and thrust to the messaging. During the years 2021-22, MPSRLM identified and trained 1,150 SHG women in as many villages, as ‘Poshan Sakhi’ (friend for nutrition), capacitating them to hold FDD campaigns in more than 5000 villages to touch the lives of 62,000 women, nudging them to adopt good dietary practices for their households.
In the knowledge that campaigns alone do not bring about behaviour change, we also use other touch-points, namely home visits and SHG meetings for more meaningful discussions. We leverage the scheduled weekly meeting of SHGs. On this pre-scheduled day, the Poshan Sakhi facilitates a discussion among the women attending the meeting on one topic of relevance such as, importance of good nutrition in the first 1000 days of life, significance of family dietary diversity, information on available services and entitlements for mothers and children and importance of homestead nutrition garden. The discussion is guided using specially designed resources for SHG women (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1XatGnZX80oLC2WvCxZzQxTo6grQJQTvx) that are being used in several other states as well. In the last quarter, Jan-March 2023, in 55400 SHG meetings included discussions on nutrition issues. The Poshan Sakhi also make home visits to homes of target women to counsel them and their family on better nutrition practices.
MPSRLM has also used other strategic spaces to improve visibility of nutrition messages. These are the wall and common area inside the 65 Community Training Centers (CTC) of the State and the walls of offices of 1350 Cluster Level Federations of the state. In each CTC and CLF office, one large wall is painted with an interactive game or painting on appropriate health and nutrition practices. The games/paintings are placed prominently where trainees/CLF members can spend time reading and understanding the pictures and ask questions. Since the paintings have been installed, 6750 Community cadres have been trained at CTC and more than 3000 to 4000 women use the CLF office for their monthly meetings regularly.
While we understand that these interventions alone may not result in individual behaviour change, these interventions do raise the overall visibility of importance of good nutrition and how to achieve it. They bring nutrition issues higher on the agenda of community and will help create a more enabling environment for adoption of better nutrition behaviours.
Author: Anita Vatsalya, State Program Manager, SISD, MPSRLM and Alok Kumar Kundu, Senior State Program Officer, TA to NRLM Project (PCI India), Madhya Pradesh