Nutrition is an important issue for me. As a Girl Guide for over 18 years and an agronomist engineer with a specialisation in food sciences and industry, Guiding brought me closer to my calling in life.
Life in Madagascar can some times be tough, especially for girls and young women. There is a widespread lack of education, with few girls having access to secondary education. Many girls, especially in rural areas, drop out of school early to support their family's agricultural activities, get married and have children early. Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t improve when we talk about access to good nutrition. Girls in both urban and rural areas battle diseases like wasting, stunting and diet related non communicable diseases.
"To know that we can all play a part and make a difference is very reassuring."
I chose to be an agronomist because nutrition is an important issue for me. Being part of the new Girl Powered Nutrition programme has enabled me to fulfill this calling with the Girl Guides as well. Skotisma Zazavavy Malagasy (SZM) is a federation of three different Girl Guide and Girl Scouts associations. As a core member of the project team, I am responsible for implementing Girl Powered Nutrition in my component association, Federation, Fanilon’I Madagasikara. Co creating the programme with other Girl Guides has meant my voice is helping raise awareness about the significance of nutrition around the world.
Advocating for improved nutrition ensures decision makers invest more in girls’ nutrition, improving access to healthy foods for as many as possible. Girls are powerful and can contribute to changing their world. My goal is to empower as many girls as I can, to speak about the vicious cycle of malnutrition and work towards creating a world where their health is a priority.
"Personally, I haven’t witnessed any biases against the women in my family, but I have seen how other girls in Madagascar are discriminated against because of their gender. Educating girls about nutrition provides them with the knowledge to make healthy choices and contributes to shaping their futures. A healthy girl can fulfill her own potential, along with her family's and in turn, her society. Girls’ nutrition is not always prioritised, but it needs to be."
My trip to Washington DC, as a SUN Youth Leader for Nutrition showed me the power advocacy has to bring about a positive change. It can seem scary, but I learned how important it is to humanise our decision makers. They are people too. To know we can all make a difference is very reassuring.
I’ve also learnt the value of persistence while working on issues we feel passionate about. Results and impact can take time. Mobilising people, resources, restructuring organisations, raising money can take time and effort. The training gave me the confidence and ability to speak publicly about issues that matter and convince people about the importance of nutrition in our daily life.
In Washington, I also had the opportunity to meet dignitaries and influencers who shaped my strategies in a huge, huge way. Lastly, the visit taught me how to keep up with the times. It showed me the importance of using the latest communications platforms to build and sustain the relevance of our cause. For instance, digital media presents many opportunities to start and build momentum for campaigns to help us impart knowledge and influence public behaviour. I see myself as a more confident person, capable of taking these learnings and working towards ensuring the rights of all girls to adequate nutrition is respected.