Empowering Women through Nutrition and Hygiene Education in India

Biju Mushahary, Project Manager Seeds of Prosperity Program at GAIN, shares the story of Majoni one of the participants of the ‘Seeds of Prosperity’ program in India who recently talked about her experience during a workshop.

‘We do not face any problem with the women beneficiaries. They are attentive and take active part in discussions during trainings.  But it is a different story with men. The challenge with male attendees is that it is difficult for them to accept a woman telling them about good nutrition and hygiene’, Majoni remarked.

Majoni trains her community of tea workers and their families on nutrition in Assam, India. She is one of the participants of the ‘Seeds of Prosperity’ program in India, a collaboration between GAIN, Unilever and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). Implemented by Solidaridad, the program educates people like Majoni to train their communities on eating diverse food groups and handwashing. Majoni spoke during a recently held workshop that celebrated the success of reaching the 10,000th tea worker through the program.

I was expecting more generic stories of everyday challenges of implementing trainings when I asked the trainers, to share their journeys of being part of the project. However, Majoni’s remark was a surprise for me. Not because she spoke on gender bias, since it is not uncommon to hear such narratives in meetings. There are two elements that made it so special, in my opinion. The first is the speaker herself.  Forget the confident and bold statement; a few months back no one would even imagine that Majoni could speak in a public forum. I still remember my first interaction with her during the initial days of the programme.  She talked the least, appeared nervous, and was definitely the most shy of all the participants. But on that day, Majoni did not just get up  to speak, but also highlighted an important social dimension that can influence the programmatic outcomes of ‘Seeds of Prosperity’ or any other similar programmes for that matter. Secondly, she made the statement in presence of officials and managers of the tea estates. I believe this makes it even more special. It is special for because the hierarchical systems in tea estates make it very unlikely for the tea worker community to express themselves frankly in-front of the management. Therefore, Majoni making such a strong statement in-front of the managers is a rare moment that displayed her confidence and her courage.  The courage, needed to break away from the hierarchical set-up and express oneself without fear. Majoni definitely earned my admiration!

From being a shy introvert personality to a confident individual, I see huge a transformation for Majoni. What is even more heartening is that she is not alone. I see similar changes in many other trainers of the project.  The process of training their community on nutrition and hygiene every day, over a period of nine weeks has helped them develop as more confident individuals.

Majoni Sahu, Master Trainer Seeds of Prosperity program, Assam, India

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Published 22 November 2017