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Women, Nourishment & Education in India

Finally arrived! Safe and well here in this colorful land of culture and chaos. Thanks to dear friends the transition has been a smooth one and somewhere stored in my cells I remember this place, its flow and its' pace. Nevertheless, I feel prodded, poked and touched on all dimensions of my being. Nothing is easy here and navigating the pollution and traffic requires an ease of being in order to find a sense of coherence and flow.

I am here to learn, share and contribute and there is a great need on the level of maternal and child health. Just this past week I had the pleasure of spending time with young women, some of them mothers and many whom are from a local slum. Most of the women work as sweepers and cleaners and come from families that have lived for generations in very low resourced settings. I had the privilege of visiting the local slum where many of the women live. The conditions are poor and the homes very small, sometimes as many as eight family members living together in a small space. The people I met were proud and embody a sense of pride and dignity. The homes I visited were clean and orderly, colorful and welcoming ~ I felt honored to be invited in to their homes. These women are fortunate to be receiving an education in digital literacy through the amazing support of Basis - Foundations for Life and Family Development Services. These organizations are providing the opportunity for better jobs, income and further education for women and their families.

I look forward to spending more time with this group of women! Next week I will be offering a class on reproductive health, nutrition and nourishment. Four of the women, Prianka, Anu, Elavarasi and Kjiya accompanied me on a field trip to the slum so I could learn more about their diets and how they are nourished. I was pleased to see that many have refrigeration, and access to meat, poultry, eggs and milk. However, a lack of minerals and vitamins is a problem and many many women suffer from low iron increasing the risk of hemorrhage after birth. Essential fatty acids, necessary for optimal brain and nervous system development are lacking, as well as sources of healthy fats. Most of the oil consumed is highly processed palm oil, and is stored in small plastic packets. There is an excess of white sugar in the diet as raw honey is in-affordable, and food coloring which is a well known neurotoxin is added to most of the snack foods eaten by the children. One of the biggest problems is GMO white rice, which is contributing considerably to mineral and vitamin deficiency and devastating India's agricultural heritage and traditional farming practices.

I listened to stories from a French woman I met here, who has been working with low resourced communities for the past twenty-odd years. She tells me that there is such a thing as an 'unregistered slum' where the poorest of the poor make their homes. In an unregistered slum, humans are living amongst the garbage heaps and receive no support or help from the government. She showed me a photo of a woman and her child, sitting amongst mounds of garbage; it is heartbreaking to see. She also told me a story of a village she visited in Tamil Nadu, where she witnessed a mother bathing her baby. Her baby was very distressed and crying, when the French woman came closer she saw that the mother was washing her baby's face with soap which was getting into the little one's eyes, but that's not all, the water she bathed her baby in was scolding hot. The mother was laughing, and the French woman tried to stop her, educate her about the harm this was causing her baby. I am told this is a common practice here in some villages. There is great need for education but it also needs to be culturally matched.

I look forward to writing and sharing more about what I learn. My next task is to develop a class that communicates the essential foundations of reproductive health and nourishment in a way that makes sense. I want it to be interactive, to inspire the wisdom that is already there in the women I am talking to. I hope to break down the barriers of class, color and race, to meet together as women sharing knowledge and to learn from each other with open hearts. Stay tuned for the next post.

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