Sonua block is one of the remotest areas of Jharkhand’s West Singhum district, with extremely poor health and nutritional indicators. The block has 125 Anganwadi Centres (AWCs), but due to lack of awareness and geographic remoteness, these AWCs lacked the essential infrastructure to provide appropriate government services.

With the support of a local NGO, Save the Children started work in Sonua block in 2020 to improve the health and nutritional situation of under-five children. The work started with capacity building of the existing mothers’ committees for the welfare of the village and the AWCs. Altogether 121 such committees were formed across 121 villages to monitor the activities at the AWCs and create awareness regarding government services. These groups were developed to build ownership among mothers and ensure appropriate services reach the children. These groups, named the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Groups, were formed with the vision to:

1. Upgrade infrastructures of the AWCs

2. Capacity building of frontline workers

3. Involvement of community and building ownership

4. Strengthening of supportive supervision

During one such meeting, the mothers’ group pointed out the dilapidated condition of the Rupakosh Anganwadi Centre and said it needed immediate renovation. This is where toddlers came for their early education classes and nutritional support. Pregnant and lactating mothers also dropped in for routine check-ups and nutritional counselling.

Rupakosh Anganwadi Centre almost resembled the haunted houses often shown in movies. Children and adults avoided going to the centre, fearing accidents. The group members agreed to collect money from each other to start the renovation work, depending on their capabilities.

Around 15 group members, with support from Purnima Purty, the nutrition counsellor of Save the Children, went door to door seeking donation. Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed as more villagers joined their endeavours. Some donated Rs 10, others donated Rs 100, but everyone felt included. The group managed to raise Rs 2,900 in total – Rs 1,900 from the village, Rs 500 from the Anganwadi centre, the Anganwadi Sahayika (helper) donated Rs 200, and the local youth group contributed Rs 300.

The money raised was, however, not enough to hire a mason. But that was not a deterrent. The group decided to carry out the renovation themselves. They procured the material from the village and started the work. They repaired the floor and broken walls of the building and coated the walls with lime wash. They planted seeds to grow vegetables to add them to the children’s diet. They even repaired the roads leading to the AWC.

The centre has become an example of community ownership of a public space for children. It became a story of change led by a resourceful mothers’ group. “It looks like a revolution where the mothers took ownership to provide a safe and nurturing space to their children,” said the Anganwadi worker of Rupakosh.

“I feel proud that I got this opportunity to work with this community through Save the Children. I am also thankful to the residents of the village who came together to fulfil this dream,” said Purnima Purty, nutrition counsellor.

Project information

Save the Children is committed to improving the nutritional outcome of children and women by strengthening the ICDS systems and by creating an enabling environment that results in evidence-based, sustainable, multi-sectorial nutrition actions delivered at scale. The project also aims to strengthen existing public nutrition care and capacity-building efforts to improve access and quality of nutrition services by ensuring social behaviour change and communication.

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