Saotra Rasetasoa is a Girl Powered Nutrition (GPN) Advocacy Champion in Madagascar within the Skotisma Zazavavy Malagasy Federation, member of the Mpanazava Eto Madagasikara and an Agronomy engineer. She is eager to speak out wherever there is an opportunity to do so. Through her GPN Advocacy Campaign, she has been calling out for vital action from the government through some simple but ingenious ideas.
Malnutrition in Madagascar is at a crucial point: 42% of children under 5 years face late growth, 80% of Malagasy households do not eat enough and most of them eat low quality food. (Source: Government PNAN III) and 36% of women between the ages of 15-49 suffer from anaemia.
Many reasons cause these issues and two of the main roots are the lack of knowledge and gender inequalities around nutrition. Most of the time, the food girls and young women eat is limited compared to the other members of the family. Girls and young women are often susceptible to lack of good healthcare and receiving enough education.
Malnutrition has a big impact on girls and young women’s self-esteem and mental development. A malnourished girl cannot develop her full potential and cannot take part in the development of her community. Saotra received advocacy training, which empowered her to take action and speak out:
“I am a Girl Guide; it is important for me to be able to develop girls and young women. Malnutrition is part of the many barriers we face, and I am eager to break the cycle around malnutrition in my country for the sake of each and every girl.
As for me, girls are precious; they are precious because they are the future. Girls ensure the continuity of life, so their health and their nutrition are important. Taking part in the fight against food insecurity is a step forward in my life as a responsible citizen. Raising my voice helps me to reach out to decision-makers to solve these issues. I am thankful to my association for giving me an opportunity to stand for girls and young women especially for this issue.”
Girls are my inspiration; I am raising my voice for girls and young women
A few months after the training, Saotra had the idea of making an advocacy video where she discusses the reduction of malnutrition for children under the age of 5 years old and children at school, with the aim to post on her social media and raise much-needed awareness of these issues.
“I have posted the video on Facebook and Twitter to try to convince the government to enhance the education about nutrition in schools and calling for their attention. What a surprise! I have felt just how powerful communication on social media can be. It really gives you a free platform to speak out and advocate, and it calls for other activists to join the fight. Many social media users have joined through commenting, sharing and reacting to my post.”
Saotra’s video soon received lots of attention and went viral in just a matter of days. It caught the attention of the Government, who offered new opportunities for young people to express themselves and propose solutions to issues in Madagascar, direct to the President himself.
“When the opportunity came to give solutions to some issues in our country directly to the President, I didn’t miss the opportunity. I wrote to the President to express to him the importance of education about nutrition in schools and that improvement of school canteens should be a priority.
Recently, I got another opportunity to give a talk during a youth-led advocacy event: JODI (Les Jeunes Ont Des Idées/ Young People Have Ideas). The difference with this one is that I now had to face many people. I had some hesitations at first but I kept my target in mind. And I managed to do it.”
Through these actions, the Government in Madagascar has taken initiatives to fight against malnutrition. The Ministry of Education recently announced a new programme of enhanced nutrition education in primary schools, especially for Grade 4 and Grade 5. The President and the First Lady have been very outspoken about how good nutrition for Malagasy people is a priority, and they will work towards a country with zero hunger.
“It was not just because of the advocacy that I have conducted but the hand in hand work we have done with many other activists.
We were all playing a role in this big change and we are happy with the results. We really thank the Government for their willingness to do good for the population and the good of the country.”
My motivation to continue this campaign against malnutrition is alive more than ever
“From these experiences, I became an even stronger woman; I got the opportunity to learn to speak in public, to advocate, to call for action and to convince decision-makers. I am really convinced that girls can change a lot of things.
We don’t have to do big things to be able to change the world. Just use what you have to improve other’s lives. I have done the best I can do with what I had and I am happy to see the journey I have come so far. I am convinced you can do so too. Remember, we can change the world and her world because we are Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.”