Embracing local cultures to promote nutrition messages


In the Odiya language, Anna means rice and Prasana means to eat, and Annaprasana is a ceremony that is performed when a child attains 6 months of age with much fanfare in most parts of Odisha as well many other parts of India.

It is understood in these communities that as the child grows, the mother’s milk alone cannot meet the energy needs of the child. The diet needs to be supplemented with additional energy-dense food. Thus, the child is introduced to complementary foods like rice porridge, chhatua, pulses and vegetables in small quantities, which is increased gradually as the child grows and weaned away from breastfeeding.

Digital Green’s project Samvad has partnered with a strong grassroots organization, Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD), in Odisha to engage with the community through its range of digital engagement platforms that enable beneficiaries and influencers to interact and learn about best practices related to maternal child health nutrition (MCHN) and family planning.

We found that community members of most of the tribal villages of Thakurmunda block, Mayurbhanj District in Odisha were unaware of the various stages of infant and young child feeding practices and its importance for the child’s growth. The concept of Annaprasana was also absent.

Several videos were made and disseminated in these villages in self-help groups (SHGs) and on Village Health and Nutrition Days (VHNDs) to generate awareness and ensure the community embrace the healthy behaviors under MCHN and family planning themes.

The Samvad project is particularly concerned about addressing social taboos and embracing social practices that can enable and maximize social behavior change through its videos. We observed that as a result of videos that showcased the importance of introducing complementary feeding through a social ceremony such as Annaprasana, the community quickly embraced the ceremony.

The community now understands the importance of initiating complementary feeding at 6 months and in over 27 villages of Thakurmunda block, Annaprasana ceremonies are now a regular occurrence celebrated with great joy. When the child is given the semi-solid food for the first time, mantras are recited and prayers are offered to various deities to mark it as an auspicious occasion to be celebrated. The practice has become so popular that the community members are even celebrating it on the VHND day as a festival.

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