Thursday, January 26, 2012

An open letter to the African woman

Dear sisters,

I'm writing this letter because I have lost several nieces to childbirth in the recent past. This problem has been on the rise in my community, despite the fact that modern knowledge and medicine should have minimized it. The same is true for child malnutrition, which is rising, even as our adoption of modern nutritional and medical practices intensifies.

On September 20th, 2010, Ida Odinga, the wife of Kenya's Prime Minster devoted attention to the issue at the United Nations. Cited here is a Daily Nation article on the meeting: Malnutrition destroys young bodies and minds, harms education and work performance and ultimately damages communities. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa. We know the solutions to prevent this cycle, and it is urgent that we, as women and as leaders, set our goals in action.

 The article goes on to state that, “About 60 per cent of the world’s chronically hungry people are women. While undernutrition is a critical human development issue across the globe, it is especially prevalent in Africa, where one in four people suffer from malnutrition and 40 per cent are stunted.”

That these observations are being discussed at such forums is encouraging. However, we must try to understand this issue as a communal problem. Our friends from other continents and regions can only help us effectively if we make the effort to understand the problem ourselves and to develop homegrown solutions for it.  

My dear sisters, I am addressing you because women are often viewed as the custodians of a people’s culture. Empowered women help to build a thriving culture. In turn, a thriving culture helps to create empowered women.

Those of you lucky enough to be reading this have a moral obligation to empower yourselves, as do I. Then the choices we make, which will serve as examples to the majority, will be rooted in knowledge. The first step in empowering ourselves is to read about the subject of malnutrition. We should not assume, as we often do, that we know everything. I am a doctor, but it took me many years to learn what I know about malnutrition.

Heed these words as the fate of future generations may depend on what you know.

Yours respectfully,
Nelly M’mboga.

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