Darlene is a Girl Powered Nutrition (GPN) Advocacy Champion from The Philippines, and member of Girl Scouts of the Philippines. After completing her GPN badge activities, she established a GPN Advocacy Campaign in her local area to work with her local authority to prioritise childhood nutrition.
In the Philippines, childhood undernutrition remains high, whilst over nutrition amongst children also continues to rise over the past decade. This double burden of malnutrition must be addressed to ensure that children grow up reaching their full potential.
“Many reasons cause these issues including lack of knowledge and gender inequalities around nutrition. Moreover, in my province, one of the main issues is the inaccuracy of the recording of children’s anthropometric measurements (height and weight).”
Darlene knows it is important to have accurate data recorded during nutritional assessment of children to properly identify children who are malnourished (overweight, underweight and suffering from stunting). Accurate data also helps the Government and local authorities (Barangay) to identify effective interventions to eliminate malnutrition in the country.
“I was inspired to take action when I completed my GPN Advocacy Training to become an Advocacy Champion. I recognised problems whilst working with the Barangay Health Workers (BHW) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS), who are the frontline health workers in my community. I noticed they were inaccurately recording height and weight data of children during their assessments.
This is a big problem that could lead to incorrect interventions from the Government. Sometimes schools ask for data from the Barangay to determine which children are under and over nourished. That’s why I feel it’s very important to ensure the accuracy of measurements.”
Many of the frontline health workers in Darlene’s region have no professional training or qualifications, and the service relies on volunteers with limited training. Darlene wanted to tackle this problem alongside her fellow Advocacy Champions. She first agreed her plan with the Girl Powered Nutrition Country Project Manager.
“My campaign objective is to improve the accuracy of data collection during weighing of girls at the health centres in Davao Oriental. At first, I did not see the importance of planning, but today, I realised how important it is, as it helped me be more productive. When I had conversations with decision-makers, and talked to them about my plan, they were impressed that I had already done so much.”
Meeting with decision-makers
Darlene established a meeting with several local authority Board Members including Louie Rabat, of District 2, Sangguniang Panlalawigan Province of Davao Oriental.
“As I went to their office, I gave them a letter introducing my project and attached my campaign plan to deliver training and education to the frontline health workers on taking accurate measurements. One of the decision-makers in particular (Board Member Louie Rabat) was very interested and wanted to meet me again where I presented my plan to him.”
Through Darlene’s continued advocacy work, Board Member Louie Rabat agreed for his office to officially sponsor her training for the frontline health workers in her community. He provided the venue, food, technical equipment and materials for the training.
“I decided to support Darlene because I find it rare to see youth-organised events. I see the potential in her and I have high hopes for the future of our country with young girls like Darlene taking part in nation building.”
Vice Governor Nino Uy also agreed to supply health kits containing medicine, a tape measure and a thermometer, given to all training participants.
“At the beginning, it was quite hard for me as it was my first time to organise an event as big as this. Working with my co-Advocacy Champions was great as we were able to divide the work and manage the tasks by working together.”
A total of 30 frontline health workers from 2 municipalities and 1 city in Davao Oriental attended the training. Darlene invited Ms Ma. Cerenia Sungay, Provincial Nutritionist from the Provincial Health office to deliver the training and share accurate ways of taking height and weight for different ages of children. A breastfeeding counsellor was also invited to talk about the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding.
“I’ve been working for 20 years and never realised we were doing this wrong. For two decades I have been weighing children a certain way and now I will do it differently.”
Looking to the future
“The participants were very happy as they learnt a lot from the training. Afterwards, I intend to visit the Barangay for evaluation. The training was such a success that I have been asked to deliver my training again, but for District 1 this time. This is to be funded by one of the decision-makers I spoke to originally who was impressed by the training in District 2.
I would love to be able to roll this out to five more municipalities over the next year, supported by decision-makers in my area who have expressed interest. It is important that girls and young women take the lead when they can see problems in their society. I’ve had great success and you can too.”