In December 2018, I was asked to go to Kampong Cham in Cambodia to help with Save the Children’s Adolescent Nutrition programme and to conduct a four-day workshop training for Save the Children staff, frontline workers and local government officials. One of the aims was to explore the opportunities of effectively engaging older adolescents (15-19 years) in a provincial nutrition programme.
During the four-day training workshop we shared our knowledge and experiences of the context in Kampong Cham and specifically what issue are linked to the causes of undernutrition for the children. We explored the differences between a more traditional nutrition education approach and participatory nutrition education where the children themselves are ‘agents of change’, defining problems and solutions to specific nutritional related problems that they can then implement at a family level. Part of this approach is, of course, that the adolescents understand the nutritional issues that affect children at different ages. We examined Children for Health activities that can be used to do this in a fun way. We also created and practiced using tools that help facilitators and the adolescents themselves understand the role of leader, speaker and planner – all important roles if they are to become activitsts even in their families.
We spent two afternoons with groups of children at a local high school and participants were able to find out from the children themselves what nutrition problems they faced and what they felt they could do to solve them. These school-based sessions with the adolescents was – as always – a highlight for everyone! Just a few hours with them enough to convince even the most sceptical person of just how resourceful and competent children can be in defining and finding solutions!
After the field work, which enable all the participants to experience the reality of this approach, we began to define key roles and approaches for each sector (health, education, maternal and child health) and how they could contribute at different stages of the project cycle. It was so great to have colleagues across the different ministries, from NGOs and even from a media company – all enthusiastically working to come up with a plan that focused on empowering the children to make improvements to their diets and to their health.
Throughout the workshop, I positioned the Children for Health messages as examples of nutrition education content and I did this using materials I have developed for a young adolescent nutrition education programme in Mozambique. Despite these materials being for a very different context, many participants were keen to have this Mozambique-related content translated and made available as handouts. It’s always a highlight for me when the Children for Health content from one country context ‘lands’ well in another!