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- ‘We Do Not Know How To Feed Our Children’
Monalisa Padhee was born and bred in Sambalpur, Odisha. The pursuit of a ‘well settled life’, emphasised by her father, led her to graduate in biotechnology, after which she moved to Australia for higher studies. During her PhD, Monalisa worked on a project looking for any link between what mothers eat around the time of conception and adult diseases in babies.
Gradually, her interests widened into greater practicality. “It’s not that I did not enjoy research, but I wanted to see the relevance of my lab work and research in people’s lives,” says Monalisa. It was then that she decided to take a ‘leap of faith’—return to India and work on a rural development fellowship. “During my time on the field, I realised that health issues in these communities could not be isolated from interconnected problems of education, discrimination against women, financial dependence and poor understanding of rights.”
Monalisa now heads the ‘women wellness and enriche’ programme at Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan. Her team works to fight malnutrition in rural women through awareness, research, and reviving indigenous products. “The real challenge lies in getting women understand the vicious cycle of poor nutrition and educating them about the need to take care of nutritional choices, however limited they might be,” she says.
Her team spreads awareness using simple, practical and interactive tools to improve dietary practices. In addition, they try to ensure timely and correct diagnosis of anaemia among women. “Our approach is to train women from the communities so that they become nutrition champions within their communities,” says Monalisa, who is also a trained folk dancer.
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