Adolescents take a stand!

Why do we need to focus on adolescent nutrition? We asked adolescents!

By Muña Valdez, Communications Assistant and Safiria Murtas, Junior Associate Communications 

Around 1.2 billion people, or 1 in 6 of the world’s population, are adolescents aged 10 to 19. Adolescent nutrition is frequently considered to be the second most important period of physical growth in the life cycle, after the first year following child birth. The rapid physical, cognitive and psychosocial growth and development that takes place during this period influences an individual for the rest of his or her life. Yet, nutrition campaigns and other health care services are less targeted at adolescents than other age groups.

Many health complications that occur during adulthood can be prevented by adopting better habits during adolescence. This is why an increasing number of organizations are recognizing the importance of developing nutrition interventions to target this specific age group.

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are amongst those organizations fully committed to taking action in adolescent nutrition. In June 2018, the two organizations convened a two days joint consultation workshop “Adolescent: Agents of Change for a Well-Nourished World” in Geneva, which brought together global nutrition and development experts from the public and private sectors.

Nine adolescents from four different countries (Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Zambia) took part in this unique event and were able to raise their voices in front of country stakeholders, experts, development partners and private sector actors, and share their thoughts on nutrition-related issues in their respective countries, as well as on a global scale.

During the event, GAIN facilitated discussions with the adolescents and asked them about their daily eating habits, the meaning of food in their culture and their thoughts on the importance of nutrition in order to live healthy lives. The outcome is a series of short video interviews, which offer a quick glimpse into their realities, dreams and memories while showing their willingness to be real “agents of change”.


Afsy Nadifa, 16 years old, Indonesia

“In Indonesia, no meal is considered complete if you don’t have rice”. Afsy tells us about the role of food in her life and how her friends feel about nutritious foods.

Akakulubelwa Mukubesa, 14 years old, Zambia

Akakulubelwa is one of the youngest participants at the adolescent workshop. Her eyes light up when she talks about cooking traditional Zambian meals together with her family to celebrate her sisters’ birthday.

Annet Kambungo, 17 years old, Zambia

Annet’s soft voice and bright smile take us right into her hometown on “Harvesting Day” and lead us to discover Zambian traditions and family roles.

Dipty Chowdhury, 15 years old, Bangladesh

Dipty has a promising future. At only 15 years of age, she is an active member of the Golden Girls, a movement of girls committed to improving adolescent nutrition in Bangladesh. She speaks passionately about her beliefs, her willingness to be part of a greater change… and the love for her mum’s cuisine.

Khoirunnisa Maharani, 15 years old, Indonesia

Khoirunnisa, affectionally nicknamed “Nisa”, is an outgoing 15-years-old adolescent from Indonesia. Having lived in the US for a little while, Nisa has been introduced to international foods. She is fond of tacos and pasta!

Mashhood Ur Rauf Muhammad, 15 years old, Pakistan

With his deep voice and straight posture, Mashhood looks more mature than his 15 years of age. Strongly inspired by the workshop, he is now ready to share knowledge about nutrition back home.

Monami Mehnaz, 20 years old, Bangladesh

The thought of chocolate puts a big smile on Monami’s face. The 20-year-old Bangladeshi student is a self-declared food-lover. “We are what we eat” she says.

Mustahoshin Ahamed Afif, 18 years old, Bangladesh

A perfect example of the “Bangladeshi boy”, Mustahoshin is an active member of the Shornokishoree Network Foundation (SKNF). He has a full understanding of the impact that poor nutrition can have on the body and state of mind.

Rafsi Hibatullah Albar, 16 years old, Indonesia

“In Indonesia food is complex, it’s a basic need, but then it has many varieties” says Rafsi. He highlights the challenge of finding healthy food options when eating out in Indonesia and strongly believes that change must happen.

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Published 31 July 2018