“In our everyday life, we meet a lot of people, and some of these people help us realize the purpose of life.
I have been involved in various health-related projects and programs in Nepal since my undergraduate days. However, my actual journey to self-discovery began with a mother’s story. This was the moment I knew that I wanted to be a social change-maker.
Sangita and her family’s happiness knew no bounds when she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. But the child died after two months because of inappropriate feeding practices. Sangita had received no education or information about children’s nutritional requirements. As a result of her baby’s death, Sangita was disowned by her husband and his family. She is currently living in her maternal home.
Meeting hundreds of mothers like Sangita from marginalized communities gave me a reality check: thousands of children in Nepal die every year due to causes associated with malnutrition. It also inspired me to develop an innovative education tool called a Nutribeads bracelet. The bracelet helps mothers like Sangita by constantly reminding them about appropriate nutrition in the first two years of a child’s life.
I was able to take this idea forward with the support of UNICEF after winning a Youth Innovation Challenge in 2016. Currently, I have a team of 20 youth volunteers working on nutrition awareness and advocacy through our network Social Changemakers and Innovators (SOCHAI).
Our SOCHAI–Youth for Nutrition project has already provided counseling to dozens of mothers with the help of the Nutribeads bracelet. As a part of this project, we have also trained adolescents, local mothers’ groups and health workers.
Seeing mothers grasp the importance of nutrition and put in place measures to improve the health of their children has been the most rewarding feeling on this journey. However, the barriers to breaking the malnutrition cycle among the poor are heart-breaking.
I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to receive a quality education, proper health care and nutritious food, without experiencing discrimination. But almost 25 percent of people in Nepal live below the poverty line and suffer from hunger and malnutrition. The situation has become even worse due to recent natural disasters.
Studying for a Masters in Nutrition and being a young woman, I aim to help break the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition through the economic empowerment of women. Empowering even a small group of women can set off a chain reaction in the community where they live, and inspire others to become economically independent. Involving women from poor and marginalized communities in the production and sale of Nutribeads bracelets can improve both nutritional awareness and income opportunities.
There are a lot of powerful young minds in the world that are fearless and determined to be the voices of the voiceless. I am really looking forward to meeting and working in unison with other young change-makers from all over the world who are bound together by the strong thread of One Young World. We wish to make the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals a reality.”
Bonita Sharma from Kathmandu, Nepal, is one of the 20 OFID-sponsored delegates to attend this year’s One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. She is 25 years-old and is currently pursuing her Masters in Food and Nutrition at the Tribhuvan University in Nepal. To date, her youth network SOCHAI has provided nutrition counseling to hundreds of pregnant and lactating mothers. The network is also implementing awareness strategies at schools to educate adolescent girls.