In her words: Voices from girls around the world
We asked adolescent girls what good nutrition means to them. This is what they had to say.
Posted on October 5, 2023
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question often posed to children from an early age, encouraging them to consider their future and the different possibilities that exist. Although career choices may change over time, we want to ensure that one thing never does: the ability for a girl to grow into her full potential.
To support adolescent girls to achieve their dreams, Nutrition International works with national governments around the world to strengthen adolescent nutrition programming, which targets girls and boys aged 10 to 19. The program aims to improve the health and wellbeing of adolescents by reducing anaemia in adolescent girls through weekly iron and folic acid supplementation (WIFAS) and empowering adolescents through gender-responsive nutrition education. This education helps them understand their growth, development, and potential to benefit from good nutrition and healthy lifestyle practices.
We asked adolescent girls in countries in Asia and Africa to share what good nutrition means to them, how they are involved with nutrition programming now, and yes, what they want to be when they grow up. Below, read what they had to say.
Dream job: Lawyer
“I learned about nutrition from my school. We were given a diary about nutrition, and we read it to learn. I know that this iron and folic acid supplementation is essential for adolescents like us as it strengthens our body. We do not get tired easily, our skin becomes healthy, and we can focus more on our studies. Before I used to get tired very easily but that does not happen now. I can focus more on my studies and take an interest in sports.
I discuss the topics I have learned from my school about health and nutrition with my parents. They encourage me to learn more about it. The things I have learned about nutrition and iron and folic acid will help me achieve my goals. In order to reach our goals, we must stay healthy.”
Dream job: Neurosurgeon
“Good nutrition means to me eating a variety of food that gives me energy and good growth in my body. My experience in taking weekly iron and folic acid is that I have been able to do a lot of exercise. I’m strong and I have been concentrating in class whenever the teacher is teaching. I have been able to get good grades, especially mathematics and all the other subjects.
Some of things I would tell my friends about nutrition is how nutrition helps us to grow well. It gives us strength in our bodies to play and reduces diseases in our bodies. It’s important for girls like me to do well in school so that we can achieve our goals in future and be successful when we grow up.
I would like to be a neurosurgeon. Good nutrition will help me to become a neurosurgeon by helping my brain to develop well and to understand what the teacher is saying in class.”
Dream job: Commissioned Officer
“Good nutrition is important because at this age we grow at a fast rate. We had a lot of activities in our school about iron and folic acid supplementation. We were taken into a hall as our teachers had prepared a skit for us. In it, I played the character of Amna which was a very important role. Initially, I portrayed a student who felt weak or tired. In the skit, it was shown that after taking iron and folic acid tablets I didn’t feel tired, and I started participating in every activity.
Whatever I learn from school about anaemia and good nutrition, I also tell my cousins and relatives’ children. I say that if I have benefited, then everyone should benefit.”
Grade: Grade 10
Dream job: Doctor or Architect
“For me, good nutrition means having a healthy, varied and balanced diet. I think iron and folic acid supplementation is a very good thing to strengthen the nutrition of students. The importance of preventing anaemia is to feel better in your body, grow better and then serve humanity. I started to take good care of my diet, to watch what I should eat or not, and above all to understand the needs of my body.
If I have good nutrition, as a result I will have good health and I will be mentally and physically ready to achieve my dreams. I will feel more confident to accomplish my goals.”
Dream Job: Social Development Worker
“At first, I learned about adolescent nutrition from socializations held at school from puskesmas [government health centres]. As far as I know, the iron supplement tablet program for young women is a health program organized by schools with the aim of minimizing the occurrence of anaemia in young women and is usually carried out by administering one tablet once a week. As a youth leader, I invited my young female friends to take iron tablets simultaneously according to a predetermined schedule.
I think it’s important to understand nutrition as early as possible because as a teenager who will later become the nation’s successor, maintaining balanced nutrition will become one of the factors for my physical and mental development later. Balanced nutrition can help me to learn and achieve my goals without a problem.”
Grade: Grade 8
Dream job: Scientist
“I am one of the girls who is benefiting from the weekly iron distribution. Especially for girls, iron deficiency is common. But when we take the iron supplement, we don’t exhibit iron deficiency. The reason why I am standing here is because iron supplementation for us girls is very important.
This is why I gathered teenage girls together to educate them and that is how we formed the girls’ club. My confidence in myself has increased a lot. Because if I believe in myself now, I will have even more confidence in myself later. To be a scientist in the future, I must work hard, and I must study hard.”
Dream job: World Traveller
“Children develop as they reach adolescence. During this time, the body composition, height, etc. are determined. Our height and weight may be impacted if we don’t eat nutritious food. Our brain’s development depends on it as well. If we concentrate on eating healthy now, we’ll live a long and healthy life.
In our school, a menstrual health management program was conducted. I started learning about the topic, and teachers have also greatly enlightened us, saying that it’s a natural thing and every woman experiences this. There is no reason at all to keep it a secret. We feel much more at ease discussing this topic in public now. I can also thoroughly explain this subject to someone else too.
It’s essential to feed our bodies the nutrients they need to stay healthy and have the energy necessary to pursue our goals. To travel the world, one must be in good health. It is impossible to pursue that goal if we are not in good health. It takes strength.”
Watch Adrika’s story.
With good nutrition, 600 million adolescent girls can break the cycle of malnutrition and poverty. Learn more about our work to support adolescent girls.