Indian women are an epitome of compassion, strength, dedication and acumen. The success of women as social engineers in India has demonstrated that they have earned this reputation quite deservingly.
This month story features two women leaders from the State of Gujarat, who instead of choosing a free flowing life at their early twenties decided to walk on a career path which was tough, barely recognised and unusual.
It was early 80’s, when a young nutrition post graduate Indu Capoor got an offer to work in Gujarat with a reputed international development organisation. Getting into the field she realised that nutrition education as well as nutrition programmes are problematic in India, and food security is a farfetched dream, in the given circumstances. According to Indu “Educated nutritionists emulate western knowledge and standards which does not fit in this country’s context. Moreover, the nutrition curriculum in country ignores social determinants including effect of patriarchy on nutritional status of women and girls.”
Indu’s connection with the community ignited her thoughts and she was soon joined by her junior from the University Pallavi Patel in the journey. Pallavi’s soul got awakened during her encounters with the primitive tribes of India who were deprived of many government entitlements including health benefits. Thus, contributing to the poor nutritional status of the country, they soon realised that there is a real need for an institution to drive the nutrition awareness agenda and nutrition focused interventions especially for the marginalised people. In the quest of improving food, nutrition and health status of the downtrodden they touched on the largest difficulty of starting an NGO and raise funds which is a daunting task in development sector! But their dreams were strong enough to climb the mountain of difficulties and set up CHETNA (Centre for Health, Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness), an institution which embraces health, nutrition and wellbeing from a gender equity and human rights perspective.
Nutritionists by qualification they strongly recommend that today our country needs academic institutions which focus on community nutrition from a comprehensive and gender equality perspective. The relevance of nutrition with livelihoods, agriculture (quality of soil, use of fertilisers, seeds etc), poultry farming, climate change, status of women and girls etc. needs to be understood and addressed by the future nutritionists.
CHETNA is the result of the relentless journey that Indu and Pallavi along with another colleague Ms Minaxi Shukla undertook almost three and a half decades ago. There was a spark in their eyes to see change happen in people’s life and they together persistently chased their dream. Many young enthusiastic people joined the journey and made it more enriching and meaningful. CHETNA a women led organisation, has been a pioneer to bring about a big surge to ensure right health and proper nutrition to the most marginalised.
These women are the shining beacon of optimism discharging exemplary dedication in the field of nutrition.