A woman in native Nepali dress smiles for the camera

From Student to Teacher

One Nepali woman fights malnutrition in her community

A woman plays with a young baby

At age 25, Bimala Chaudhary is many things: a daughter, a wife, a support for other women, a leader in her community. But the role she is most proud to be? A mother.

When Bimala looks at her 10-month-old daughter Sudikchya, she sees a bright and healthy future. She believes her daughter’s health is a reflection of all she has learned about nutrition, hygiene and sanitation.

Two women look at nutrition information while one woman holds a small child

“Many women do not receive the information they need during pregnancy,” Bimala says.

Bimala knows that adequate nutrition is critical for keeping mothers healthy and strong during and after pregnancy. It also ensures children grow up healthy and become productive citizens.

Every month, Bimala takes her daughter to a health mothers’ group meeting. When he can, her husband Kewal comes, too.

Here, female community health volunteers teach Bimala and other caregivers about small actions they can take to improve their health and that of their children.

The importance of washing hands with soap before eating and how to prepare nutritious porridge are among the many things Bimala has learned. What she learns, she practices at home.

A woman and a young child smile as the woman holds a spoonful of food for the child
A woman and man play with a baby
A woman sits on a blanket, breast feeding a young child

The female community health volunteers also regularly visit Bimala’s home to give one-on-one nutrition counseling. With this support, Bimala learned to feed her daughter only breastmilk for the first six months, and she is still breastfeeding along with feeding her daughter nutrient-rich foods like eggs, bananas and porridge.

Two women weigh a baby in a sling

‘Mother Knows Best’

While Bimala breastfeeds her daughter, Kewal helps prepare nutritious meals for the family, using what he learned at the health group meetings. He often incorporates fresh eggs from their chickens, a key source of protein that helps keep both mom and baby strong.

A USAID-supported radio program called ‘Mother Knows Best’ reinforces the messages Bimala learned through the women’s group. And she and Kewal get SMS messages that help remind them to take their daughter to the health clinic to be weighed every month to ensure her growth is on track.

A woman washes her hands at an outdoor pump, while another woman pumps water.

“I teach those mothers who don’t understand”

Now, Bimala uses what she has learned to teach other mothers in her community.

Continuing Her Legacy

At the heart of Bimala’s passion to learn and teach others about proper nutrition is her daughter. By improving her daughter’s nutrition now, Bimala is investing in her long-term health and productivity.

“My wish is that my daughter becomes a nurse…. She can serve the community and she can also teach [others].”

A toddler sits and plays with toys on an outdoor bed
A man plays with a toddler
A family of three - man, woman, and toddler

“We can save a lot of children from malnutrition”

Bimala is working toward a future where no more children in her community grow up malnourished.

About This Story

In Nepal, malnutrition is common among women and children, with more than 35 percent of children under 5 malnourished.

USAID’s Suaahara II program works to improve the health and nutrition of women and children in 40 rural districts. The program works at the community and household levels to promote better nutrition and health practices, support families to overcome barriers and motivate individuals like Bimala to become role models in their communities.

Through efforts to support pregnant women and new mothers, USAID has increased the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in supported communities in Nepal from 45 percent to 71 percent in the past 5 years.

USAID is also working to increase the Government of Nepal’s capacity to address the country’s nutrition needs. In 2018, USAID helped the Government of Nepal invest $3.5 billion to address malnutrition. Through efforts like these, USAID is supporting a more self-reliant Nepal.

Photos and video by Dave Cooper for USAID