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West Java, INDONESIA – In the industrial town of Purkawarta, West Java, Indonesia, an 18-year old high school student named Nunik has become a leader in her community. Seemingly shy and quiet, she is a champion for good nutrition and provides a support system for her peers.

Nunik and her classmates are participating in Nutrition International’s Right Start initiative and receive weekly iron and folic acid supplements (WIFAS) to help combat anaemia. The program is run through the school with teachers in charge of distributing the tablets.

“I was asked to distribute the iron and folic acid tablets to adolescent girls in our school but was facing challenges in ensuring all of them consumed it,” said Ms. Sofiana, Nunik’s teacher. “I then remembered a training I attended that was organised by NI on the WIFAS program. Inspired by the training, I had an idea. I thought of engaging school girls as volunteers to ensure WIFA distribution and consumption. Nunik was one of the first girls to volunteer for this initiative and has since been a driving force in our school on the program. She has also inspired several other girls to work on the issue of anaemia prevention.”

Nunik and the other volunteers call themselves Srikandi Gizi, or Nutrition Champions. Every Friday, they conduct meetings for all the girls who are part of the program. Together, they encourage their peers to take the iron and folic acid supplements, provide support and talk about the importance of good nutrition.

“Since I became a part of the Srikandi Gizi group, I have been conducting meetings every Friday, along with the other volunteers,” said Nunik. “We make a checklist and conduct counselling for girls on consumption of iron and folic acid tablets. We hold group discussions. These discussions are not only limited to awareness but also because we want the girls to consume the tablet together and we even discuss other issues that we, adolescent girls, are facing and come up with solutions collectively. I try to encourage all the girls in the school to take the tablets together, as when we see each other, it gives us comfort, and it is always easy to do things together. It also gives us the opportunity to discuss the benefits of iron and folic acid.”

Many girls like Nunik have learned about anaemia prevention through Right Start, which is supported by the Government of Canada. Implemented in two provinces of Indonesia, West Java and Benten, the program works on strengthening the Government of Indonesia’s adolescent nutrition initiatives in schools and communities.

Iron deficiency anaemia among women and girls is a major public health challenge in Indonesia. At least one-third of the country’s adolescent girls are anaemic, which is compounded by the prevalence of early marriage and inadequate nutrition.

Complementing Right Start, the Government of Australia is supporting the Mitra Youth program, which will reach an additional 289,000 school-going adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 18 in two more provinces of Indonesia, East Java and East Nusa Tenggara. Together, Right Start and MITRA Youth will reach 2.95 million school-going adolescent girls.