Empowerment through Education Posted January 7, 2014

Meet Ashma Mahat. Ashma Mahat is from a rural village in Nepal, about an hour outside of Kathmandu, the nation’s capital. She currently has a 16 month old daughter named Aayusha, her first child. As Ashma recalls, when she began feeding her daughter solid food her daughter became fatigued and weak. She was distressed and concerned about her daughter’s health so she took her to the local health center two or three times but with no improvement. One day the Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV, a woman dedicated to promoting community health) came to her home and suggested she attend the upcoming nutrition and health training conducted by the Rural Institute for Community Development (RICOD).

From the very first day, Ashma said, she learned a lot, “A process that continued until the last day of training.” From the 10 session training conducted by RICOD, she has learned about sanitation and hygiene, the importance of diet during pregnancy, the need to vaccinate children young, the importance of breast feeding, how to treat flu, diarrhea, malnutrition, and dehydration, and about the need to consume diverse and nutritious foods. Now she is using her newly acquired knowledge to clarify and correct the advice her mother and mother-in-law give her.

“I used to think that a child should only be taken to a health center when they get sick. I also did not think keeping a record of a child’s weight was necessary. But, after this training I know that everyone must take their child to a health center once a month for regular checkups and weight measurements,” Ashma says.

The training hasn’t just given her knowledge, it has empowered her to make real changes in her life. Concerning the improvement in her child’s health, Ashma recalls, “I remember, we received training about posilo jaulo (a nutritious mixed rice, lentil, and vegetable dish), its cooking methods, and its importance during the sixth session. After this I cooked posilo jaulo at my home and feed it to my child. She at it and liked it. Now-a-days I still cook it. My child disliked eating before but when I started to cook and feed posilo jaulo to her she started to enjoy eating. Now my daughter’s weight and energy is increasing gradually.”

When first interviewed, Ashma said “I hope to share what I have learned with my family, friends, and neighbors.” She had just that chance when one day she saw her neighbor in need. “There is one woman living near my house who has a 2 month old child but did not participate in the nutrition training. Her child was suffering from jaundice. I shared the knowledge that I gained at the training with her. She followed it and now her child is healthy and strong. I am happy to hear this. This training is not only helpful for me, it is helpful for the whole community,” Ashma recalled. “I am very thankful for RICOD from the core of my heart,” she added.

Interviews by Sujan Lama and Malcolm McDermond

Compiled and edited by Malcolm McDermond

Photo by Malcolm McDermond