by Michael Mattheke

Friday, March 8 marked International Women’s Day. Across the world, women stood up and celebrated their right to equality, freedom from fear and domestic inequality and violence, and their own dreams of self-determination and economic security.

Here in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh, International Women’s Day was celebrated with a “Mela” (fair) to celebrate the remarkable women of the area, and to highlight the enormous challenges many of them face in their daily lives. RMF’s Barwani team, consisting of 21 of the strongest women I have ever met, were invited to participate in the event and the march that proceeded it.

photo: March for Women

RMF’s CNEs planned three major events for this mela, which will last three days. On the first day, in addition to the march, 6 of RMF’s Community Nutrition Educators (CNEs) wrote and sang a song about malnutrition to help inaugurate the event and spread RMF’s nutrition message.

photo: RMF CNEs sing a song to inaugurate Mela

RMF also set up a booth with information on our program, the services that every woman in every village is entitled to from the Government of Madhya Pradesh, locally available nutritious foods, the importance of breastfeeding, and sanitation and hygiene. Over the next four days, from March 8th to 11th, this booth will be continuously staffed with RMF CNEs to provide more information, individual counseling, and cooking demonstrations on how to prepare most nutritious local foods.

photo: Material on nutritious food at RMF’s booth

The core of RMF’s Eradicate Malnutrition program is women’s empowerment. Our staff of 66, all women, consistently and tenaciously works to fight malnutrition by bringing the basics of health literacy to individual women and families in the 600 villages that we work in. Without this foundation, and without individual women understanding that they have the right to control their own destinies, including decisions about proper feeding and family planning, malnutrition will continue to be a problem in Madhya Pradesh.

photo: RMF’s booth at International Women’s Day, Mela

Furthermore, although the government reserves seats on various committees in the village government, such as in the Panchayats (the local elected councils) and the Village Health, Sanitation, and Nutrition Committees,  many women are not aware that these bodies exist, much less their rights to sit on them. Our CNEs work to improve that knowledge to help communities take control of their outcomes in a sustainable way.From our staff here in India, RMF wishes everyone a happy International Women’s Day and celebrates the achievement of all women!

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