What are your responsibilities as Head of Programmes in India?
As Head of Programmes at GAIN India, my main responsibility is to lead and provide technical support to GAIN’s key programmes in India and ensure effective management and implementation. Our programmes in India include Large-Scale Food Fortification (LSFF) across 18 Indian States; Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) in Rajasthan and other ongoing nutrition and public health programmes.
In addition, my responsibilities include policy and advocacy with the Central and State governments and support to the national and State-level policy makers. My work is to encourage effective policy changes through targeted nutrition interventions. I am also contributing to position GAIN as a credible stakeholder of the Government of India and an effective partner in the development sector.
At the behest of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which is the food regulatory body of the Government of India, I provide guidance, technical assistance and support to the Food Fortification Resource Centre. The Centre was set up by the FSSAI to lead its staple food fortification agenda across the Indian States.
What inspired you to work at GAIN?
Before joining GAIN, I worked with the World Food Programme (WFP). During my tenure with WFP, I collaborated on two projects with GAIN and had the opportunity to directly experience GAIN’s extremely positive work culture, pleasantness and camaraderie, which are rare in most organisations. So, once there was an opening available at GAIN, I just decided to apply.
Besides the positive working environment, most of GAIN’s work comprises challenging projects that are implemented at scale and reach the people at the bottom of the pyramid to improve their health. This was my biggest motivation, which is aligned with my personal vision and mission.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
Knowing that my work and perseverance is helping vulnerable population groups to improve their health and nutritional status is particularly rewarding. I believe that today's children will be instrumental in building a healthy world. This inspires me and my team. We believe that it is our moral and ethical obligation to help the next generation thrive and become the leaders and visionaries of tomorrow.
What are the main challenges you face in your job?
Building mutual trust among all stakeholders involved in food fortification has been very challenging. Government departments and the food industry are important stakeholders and play a very meaningful role in scaling up food fortification programmes in India. There is certainly a need for them to collaborate, but it is not always easy to engage them collectively to work on nutrition and health agendas.
Motivating the industry to adopt food fortification as an industry norm requires immense perseverance. In the absence of a demand for fortified food products, the food industry does not consider fortification of staples/food products “attractive”, either financially or commercially.
What is your greatest achievement in this role?
My biggest achievement was the creation of a strong team with a common vision and mission, which is committed to deliver. We have been able to achieve a lot in all of our projects and the credit goes to the entire GAIN India team.
Being able to positively impact the survival and health of over 20,000 children through the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition programme and reaching over 500 million people with fortified foods (edible oil, milk and wheat flour) in India, is the greatest achievement of the GAIN India team.
Through our work and commitment, we have been able to enhance GAIN's visibility amongst all important stakeholders. GAIN is considered a very valuable and credible partner for technical support and knowledge management, in the areas of Large-Scale Food Fortification, Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition, as well as Policy and Advocacy.
As a member of various professional bodies and several national and state-level committees, I have been able to promote evidence-based innovative strategies that have been scaled-up across several Indian states and have positively impacted nutrition policy and programming in India. I consider this as my personal and professional success.
In your view, what does it take to end malnutrition in India?
To tackle malnutrition, it's imperative that different Government Ministries and Departments at the Central and State level work together to implement their nutrition and health mandate in a cohesive manner through their respective social protection and food safety-net programmes.