Vancouver, Canada— At Women Deliver 2019 Nutrition International brought young nutrition advocates together with experienced leaders to discuss the challenges they face and how they can overcome them. Edna Adan Ismail, the former foreign minister of Somaliland, delivered the keynote address at How She Leads: Past, Present, Future.
Joel Spicer, president and CEO of Nutrition International, opened the conversation by expressing hope that together we can take action on malnutrition. He said that all of the delegates at Women Deliver were there because they see the need for a better world, they believe that world is possible, and they know they have a role to play in its realization.
Dr. Adan Ismail, a noted activist, spoke about her childhood and how it helped shape her future. Her parents sent her to school so she could pursue an education despite the objections of friends and family. She returned to Somaliland as the country’s first qualified nurse and midwife. She has gone on to serve as Somaliland’s Foreign Minister and Minister of Family Welfare and Social Development, and is the founder and director of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital and University.
Following the keynote address, Vivian Onano, a social entrepreneur and humanitarian, and Nutrition International board member, moderated a discussion with three youth nutrition advocates from Kenya, Sri Lanka and Canada, who shared their dreams, experiences and solutions for building a better world.
Anayat Sidhu, a SUN Movement Youth Leader for Nutrition, said that she learned early the impact that poor nutrition can have, when her family moved from Canada to India when she was young. She suffered from anaemia in her first two years of school. That early experience shaped her work today.
“From a very young age I understood every girl needs to be given the opportunity to reach her full potential. I wanted to speak up and raise my voice because it’s very important for young girls to have proper nutrition in their formative years. Going through those challenges in my life allowed me to be uplifted and empowered to be an advocate.”
Jane Napais Lankisa, a SUN Movement Youth Leader for Nutrition from Kenya, described the challenges she’s faced as a young, single woman working in maternal health and the importance of building trust and confidence within the community. Knowledge is key, she said, because the more you know the more you can share.
“Believe that you can be part of the change. If you’re going to school and you learn something you can bring to other girls, share it. I want youth leaders to be able to believe in themselves.”
Nabeela Iqbal, a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) in Sri Lanka and part of the Girl Powered Nutrition program designed in partnership with WAGGGS and Nutrition International, acknowledged that before the curriculum was introduced, she didn’t understand the importance of nutrition for adolescent girls. Now, she works to help other girls understand the impact good nutrition can have on their lives. Acknowledging that knowledge sharing flows both ways, she offered some advice to the young people in the audience who want to make a difference.
“When you advocate, it’s actually you learning from them too. Go in with that kind of humility and say we’re both going to learn from each other.”
The room, filled with past and present leaders and future advocates, left with inspiring words and concrete advice to make real and positive change in the lives of women and girls around the world.