First person: Sapana Tamang

A peer educator shares about her work in rural Nepal

I grew up in a village in Lalitpur District that did not have a secondary school, so I came to Bhardeau for school, then met my husband here.

I was a student when I first learned about the Rural Institution for Community Development (RICOD, an MCC partner). As I was about to write my class 10 exams, a group of us were invited to a training on mother and child nutrition, and I also attended another training session on leadership.

Now, I have been a peer educator with RICOD for three years.

I travel by foot to visit women in their homes and invite them to a mothers’ group. Then I work with the RICOD field facilitator to provide training. We talk about nutrition, immunizations and the importance of getting checkups during and after pregnancy. We also talk about other health issues like hygiene and sanitation.

I help with growth monitoring for babies at a health outreach clinic that RICOD started. I write the names and numbers and check whether the infants have been taken for immunizations.

“I have seen a difference in the health of my community.”

When I first started this work I used to feel unmotivated because people would not come on time to meetings. I would have to go two or three times to some houses to convince women to come. It was mostly because they had not understood what was going to happen, and also they would rather finish their work at home or in the fields. They’d think, “What’s the use of going to the meeting?”

But after they started coming, they started seeing this is something interesting and really very useful. Nowadays I call just once and everybody comes and they are on time and that really motivates me.

As a peer educator in Lalitpur District, Nepal, Sapana Tamang, center, often meets with women such as Bircha Maya Gole, left.

As I carry on with this voluntary work, I also learn new things.

I had studied nutrition while in school, but that was just to sit for exams and we would not put it into practice. But after I attended this training while I was in school and then when I started as a peer educator, it began to have value, not just for me but also for the people I was talking to.

One example is making nutritious porridge. I saw that people were using just rice and water to make porridge for their children, instead of including lentils and other ingredients to make it more nutritious. So I started looking for ways to make sure people see what they can do to add more nutrients to their children’s meals.

I have seen a difference in the health of my community. There were two babies who were malnourished in this area, but are now doing better after their mothers attended the trainings.

Also the women take their babies regularly for immunizations. In the past they would take their children once and then might not take them for the follow-up, but now it’s regular. And they go for checkups before and after childbirth.

And everyone knows about the three types of foods they should eat: body-building proteins, body-protecting vitamins and energy-giving carbohydrates. Everyone eats these, if not three times then at least twice a day.

I have also helped change the way my family eats. Before I attended the training, we would eat, and if you had a full stomach then that’s enough. But we learned about these three types of food and how to prepare food so that it keeps the nutrients.

I like that I have been able to balance work as a peer educator with work in the household and in our field. We grow maize and mustard seed, and I also do a kitchen garden where I grow green leafy vegetables, peas, onions and garlic.

We usually grow vegetables for our household use, but if we have more than enough then we sell that or keep some for seeds. I have been growing vegetables all my life, but I did attend a kitchen garden training with RICOD where I learned how to make organic compost.

I’m very happy to be working as a peer educator and to be associated with RICOD, and I want MCC to continue to support this kind of training.

Training is something that goes beyond the end of the program. It increases our knowledge for the long term and is really very helpful for us.

Sapana Tamang, 25, volunteers as a peer educator with MCC partner the Rural Institution for Community Development in Lalitpur District, Nepal. She also works with her family farming maize and runs a small store.