Midnight Stories Of Solidarity Brewing Empowerment And Strengthening Nutrition

Uttar Pradesh demonstrates the significance of women’s empowerment in combating malnutrition through community-based micro-enterprises led by self-help groups

Written By: Elisabeth Faure | March 8, 2024

New Delhi: Something unusual happens as night falls over Bhojla village in Badagaon, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh. Women from some of the homes in the area leave their houses and head to a small structure where they will work through the night. This is a significant social leap for women in this region. These women operate machines that produce various nutritious mixes distributed to women and children as part of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

“I have been extremely happy since I joined the Take Home Ration Unit. It has helped me meet my daily needs and enabled me to send my children to school. I am self-sufficient and don’t rely on my husband for everything. I am now able to contribute to the household income.

“A lot has changed in our lives since I started working. My husband has also been very supportive of me and my work. The women of the Unit are like a family, and we do everything together. Our focus is on moving forward and doing a better job,” says Draupadi, one of the vocal members of Saksham Prerna Laghu Udyog running the unit.

As they sit on the ground chatting during a tea break, one gets a sense of purpose that drives these women’s exceptional commitment and the solidarity they have developed. We hear stories of how the steady income, training and respect in the community are changing their lives; some have renovated their homes, others have two-wheelers, and most have invested in their children’s education.

International Women’s Day 2024 is focused on investing in women, and the importance of this cannot be overstated. Investing in women can spark change and speed the transition towards a healthier, safer, and more equal world for all. These women and the astounding scale-up of Take Home Ration units in Uttar Pradesh demonstrate how investing in women looks on the ground in the communities and fields.

Uttar Pradesh demonstrates the significance of women’s empowerment in combating malnutrition through community-based micro-enterprises led by self-help groups. In 2020, the Department of Women and Child Development collaborated with the Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission to establish a decentralized production model for women’s enterprises’ take-home rations. The model uses automated equipment with a five metric ton production capacity, and a 20-member women’s group produces various variants for ICDS beneficiaries.

Once the rations are delivered to Anganwadi centres by the women’s groups, the women are reimbursed according to ICDS cost norms.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) demonstrated this model’s feasibility by establishing two pilot plants in Unnao and Fatehpur in 2021. After positive feedback and commitment from the Government of Uttar Pradesh, this project has been expanded to 202 production units across 43 districts in just over two years. This has created livelihood opportunities for 4,080 women, reaching 12 million ICDS beneficiaries.

Empowering women financially helps improve food and nutrition security and boost economic growth. Women’s economic empowerment contributes directly to significantly improving children’s health markers besides more equitable intra-household decision-making.

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