Transforming women and children welfare through care groups
Although Rwanda has registered strides in improving nutritional intake for women and children, numerous challenges still abound. According to the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability analysis (2015), about 20% of households nationwide are considered food insecure. In Gatsibo alone, the study found that about 3% of households are severely food insecure.
One Gatsibo resident who has experienced this challenge is Denyse Nyirabakunzi, a resident of Kageyo Sector, Gituza Cell, Kabacuzi Village. It was worrying not being able to properly feed her six children. But something more worrying caught Denyse’s attention. This was a case of two malnourished children in her neighborhood who appeared sickly and underweight. They did not have enough to eat. Denyse wanted to help but was hampered by limited knowledge of nutrition.
‘’We didn’t know how to prepare diversified diets because of limited knowledge on nutrition, “observed Denyse.
An opportunity arrived when Denyse was recruited by community health workers to join one of the care groups usually made up of 20 to 30 members. Funded by USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze is utilizing care groups disseminate nutrition messages, encourage members to save and improve hygiene. Hinga Weze mainly aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food to a changing climate.
Through her group, Denyse and fellow members are able to receive messages on nutrition and to conduct cooking demonstrations. Her group is one of the 1,219 new ones Hinga Weze has established in 10 districts, consisting of more than 34,000 households that are coached by community health workers and farmer promoters. In Gatsibo alone, Hinga Weze set up 2,000 households.
With help from fellow care group members care group, Denyse was able to provide nutritious foods for the two malnourished children, but also taught their families how to diversify and prepare diets and maintain hygiene to fight against germs. And there is more. Her care group has been able to save 51,000Rwf part of which is used to acquire nutritious foods for cooking demonstrations.
“I have learned to prepare a balanced and diversified diet and how to preserve vegetables to be used during dry seasons,” Denyse observed as she emphasized the importance of peer learning.
She has set up a kitchen garden near her home to serve as a model for other community members and also to provide vegetables for her own family. Using the demonstration garden, Denyse has so far 53 neighboring households who, in turn, set up their own kitchen gardens. Denyse is preparing for the larger mission of ensuring that her village is food secure and free of malnourished children.