SUPOSHAN SANGINIS - When The Empowered Transforms Into An Empowerer

They are targeting to break the vicious cycle of a low birth weight baby girl growing up to become an undernourished child, a weak adolescent with low body mass, eventually ending up in an early marriage leading to a weaker next generation

Kavita Sardana | Mar 12, 2020

At a time when gender is still discriminated against and feminism is often misunderstood, here’s a heart-warming account of equality and empowerment as exemplified by our SuPoshan Sanginis.

The word ‘sangini’ means a companion, to which she is truly abiding. SuPoshan Sanginis play a pivotal role in Fortune SuPoshan project, which is targeting to break the vicious cycle of of low birth weight baby girl growing up to become an undernourished child and then a weak adolescent with low body mass, eventually ending up in an early marriage, early pregnancy or repeated early pregnancies, and resulting in a weaker next generation.

SuPoshan Sanginis play a pivotal role in our programme as a friend, facilitator, guardian and a counsellor, implementing our long-term vision to free the marginalised communities and slums of India from the evils of malnutrition and anaemia. They are trained to undertake community-based approach in tackling this nation-wide concern.

SuPoshan Sangini displaying ‘suposhit’ meals

Our team of handpicked SuPoshan Sanginis work to improve the health and nutritional status of their communities right from infants (0-5yrs), adolescent girls, women in the reproductive age bracket, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.

In creating an environment to promote adoption of wholesome food and thus achieve a good nutritional status, the SuPoshan Sanginis often have to fight individual battles against prejudices and stigma, long before they can fulfil their duties. They often have to go beyond their call of duty to achieve their goal of promoting healthy food and hygienic lifestyle.

As part of this endeavour, they strive to build a rapport with families, through household surveys, screening of malnourished children, anaemic girls and women using non-invasive tools followed with regular monitoring and referrals. All this is directed towards sustainable behaviour change amongst people. The guiding principle being that each child deserves to grow up to be a healthy adult.

As a part of the nutrition intervention programme, SuPoshan Sanginis use a structured curriculum based on focused group discussion, cooking demonstrations, ‘suposhit’ meal competitions, baby showers, annaprashan (ceremony to wean a baby to supplementary food) , snehshivirs, food calendar, suposhan vatikas, nukkad-natak (street plays), use of innovative IEC tools, wall writing, road rallies and much more.

SuPoshan Sangini measuring Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC)

She acts as an enabler for the people around her by assisting them in accessing government schemes as well as motivating them to avail these services by shunning pre-conceived bias.

Carrying out these activities with maximum participation of community members along with senior Panchayat members ensures that everyone comes together to learn as well as enjoy. In doing this, SuPoshan Sanginis help to gently breaks barriers related to gender and caste while busting many myths and superstitions.

SuPoshan Sanginis work to sensitize their communities against the evils of child marriage, about the wrongful prejudice against the girl child and help to build a safe space conducive to having a dialogue about myths related to menstruation and various other superstitions that plague the community at large, especially the women. It is no wonder then, that in a span of three years, SuPoshan Sanginis have championed their cause. Their financial independence, enhanced knowledge, conviction and self-confidence inspire adolescent girls to choose skill, education and good health for themselves.

Fortune SuPoshan, launched in 2016, is an initiative of Adani Wilmar and is implemented by Adani Foundation. Beginning with 188 SuPoshan Sanginis working at ten sites to cater to 276 villages, the project has expanded with 640 SuPoshan Sanginis making a difference in 1,263 villages, for most part in the Narmada area.

The location has been carefully selected as stunting and underweight figures are alarming in the Narmada district. About 200 SuPoshan Sanginis working in the Narmada district are already making their mark in just 18 months. Through regular capacity-building workshops for the SuPoshan Sanginis, Adani Foundation ensures they remain proactive and effective in the field.

The paradigm shift from a ‘homemaker’ to a household name, from being ‘dependant’ to becoming a dependable support system in the village, is the best reward both for SuPoshan Sanginis and the team at Adani Foundation.

(The writer is the advisor, health and nutrition, at Adani Foundation in Ahmedabad)