How do we create a malnourishment-free Village? Asks Ravindra!

Ravindra Chhagan Chaudhary aged 29, has worked extensively in Toranmal Dhadgaon, Nandurbar to fight against malnutrition.  After completing his SSC Board exams, Ravindra started assisting other villager’s in their everyday governance-related activities. Ravindra is married and lives with his two children in a joint family in Toranmal.        

Toranmal is an area whose primary residents are Adivasis. It is unfortunately infamous for staggering numbers of malnourished children. UNICEF, Shabari, CORO and a number of organizations have joined hands to end this malnutrition, but the acute problem still persists.

Ravindra’s Journey:

Ravindra has been an avid reader since childhood. Reading has helped him to understand more about the social realities around him. He developed a social conscience and was acutely distressed about the issues around him. The chronic malnutrition in Nandurbar became, even more, pressing in his mind when a close relative’s daughter was diagnosed with it. No one around him even knew the word ‘Kuposhan’ or ‘Malnutrition’ back then. With the help of the local Primary Health Center and Anganwadi workers, he tried to decode this word, and simultaneously, even the issue. Ravindra resolved to create a generation of Adivasis who were not only aware of malnutrition, but also free from it. Around the same time, Shabari Foundation was working to boost the levels of Nutrition in their village. Ravindra joined their efforts and that’s how he started the decade and a half long fight for Children’s nutritional rights in his village.

Ravindra’s Work and the Issues in Toranmal:

Ravindra procured a list of all the malnourished children in the village with the help of Anganwadi Sevikas.  Most of the children in his neighborhood weren’t even registered in the local Anganwadi.  He visited each house which had a malnourished child. He started peer counseling he told every family about malnourishment and its grave effects.  He realized that the question of nourishment is intrinsically related to other social realities in the village as well. Early marriage, early pregnancy, toiling day and night for earning a decent livelihood, delay in breastfeeding children due to ungodly work hours, lack of appropriate nourishment, were some chronic and interlinked questions of the area. Over a time, he slowly started exploring ideas of nourishment and nutrition from the Anganwadi Sevikas.

To break this cycle, with the help of his peer circle, he started opposing child marriage in his area. When they went together and in large numbers, most houses were willing to listen and started coming on board. Together, they started keeping a vigilant eye on every child born in the area. Their weight, their food intake, and the frequency of breastfeeding were strictly monitored through peer counseling and home visits. Another area of focus was the mother’s nutritional intake, cleanliness, and breastfeeding practices. This is how every child’s growth and progress was monitored and the community also felt involved in the solution.

Every three months, Ravindra addresses at least a hundred houses. Ravindra and his group counsel families who migrate for work and request them to keep their child back, instead of taking it along. He insists that this is a question of the child’s rights.

Impact of his work:

Ravindra’s work has inspired an aspirational outlook in the youth around him. Some youth started this work from their families. Since children are their areas of focus, they also take up a number of other child rights-related issues with the help of the Gram Panchayat. They’ve had to continually face the resistance of blind-faith and ignorant mindsets, but they persist working for child rights without losing hope or conviction. Out of all the families, he’s peer counseled, most children have been declared Malnutrition-free. Now, he’s turned his attention to the neighboring villages. Seeing the students studying now, one can easily see hope and aspiration in the community.

Plans Ahead:

Ravindra hopes to register an organization that he wants to start in collaboration with local youth. Creditably, the organization wants to focus extensively on children’s rights. Going beyond peer counseling, they now want to create decent and dignified livelihood opportunities in Nandurbar itself. They’re hoping livelihood addresses both economic and social realities which form the root cause of malnutrition in the area. They want to make Toranmal a self-reliant village, leveraging the experience they’ve gathered from working with different organizations over the years.

Ravindra’s Message:

Ravindra is firmly convinced that each one of us needs to work hand in hand to end the question of malnutrition. Only then will our future generations and our nation will have able and strong-willed citizens.

Ravindra Chaudhary’s efforts have significantly reduced malnutrition in Toranmal and have paved the way for creating a healthier future. His work is inspirational as it creates a possibility for a healthier, happier life for children in his area.

Amol Gutte, Maharashtra