Improving mother and child health in rural Nepal
May 16, 2018
Blog written by Tallulah, a sixth-former who just finished her work experience at Feed the Minds. Tallulah wrote this impressive and insightful piece reflecting on the achievements of our project in Nepal, which we hope you will enjoy reading about. Thank you Tallulah!
Feed the Minds has been working in partnership with ETSC-N in Makwanpur District, Nepal, to improve the health of women and their babies. The programme consisted of establishing three key groups, all of which have been vital to its sustainability and overall success.
Women’s Health Groups were set up across the district for women to learn about recognising and mitigating health risks, as well as participating in practical literacy and numeracy classes. Literacy is something that is so easy to take for granted in the UK, and it’s easy to forget just how it impacts every aspect of our lives. The ability to write to a doctor or read medical information contributes hugely to a mothers’ understanding of her health.
These classes also allowed women to participate in the business skills training. For women to be able to reduce their dependency on men financially is hugely empowering. Throughout the programme’s course, these women gained confidence and self-esteem along with their practical skills. This confidence is part of what makes the programme so sustainable – empowering women to use their voice and share knowledge about healthcare means that the benefits will be handed down across generations. And, bringing in a share of a family’s income allows women to prioritise spending on their health, whether that is for adequate nutrition, travel to clinics or prescriptions and procedures.
Another reason for the programme’s success has been that it also educates men about maternal health, so that they can support their families and children. The Men’s Support Groups also lobbied alongside women for longer opening times at clinics and better health services. In the remote, mountainous villages of Makwanpur, even just travelling to a nearby clinic can take hours. It is one thing to convince busy women to prioritise such a journey, but this would be for nothing if the clinic was always closed by the time they reached it. In addition to a universal increase of opening times, the lobbying efforts contributed to other improvements to services, including the establishment of 24-hour delivery suites, ambulance services, new sterilization machines and new sexual health facilities.
A key aspect of any sustainable development programme is ensuring that future generations will benefit from it too. In part, this was achieved by the dissemination of knowledge. More directly, the formation of Adolescent Girls’ Groups gave teenage girls a platform for their voices to be heard.
It can be difficult enough to talk about periods and puberty here, but the cultural taboo in Nepal often leaves girls in Nepal isolated and not knowing what to do when their periods start. The Girls’ Groups provided an environment where no aspect of their health felt shameful, with awareness being raised through discussion, art and role play. The girls’ creativity and confidence has blossomed. It’s wonderful to think that these girls will grow up with higher self-esteem, and will be able to support others because they themselves have had access to support and information.
The creativity and engagement of the community has been astounding and ensures that the benefits will continue to be felt, and even heightened in years to come. With the sharing of knowledge, prioritisation of safe practices and improvements to healthcare facilities, the future is looking bright for women and babies in Makwanpur.