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Bonita Sharma, winner of Lead 2030 Challenge, inspiration to Nepali youth

Ajita Rijal, KATHMANDU: Bonita Sharma, winner of Lead 2030 Challenge, has been the latest inspiration to all youth of Nepal.
Last week, 24-year-old Sharma, co-founder and CEO of Social Changemakers and Innovators (SOCHAI),was announced the winner of the Lead 2030 Challenge for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) # 2 ‘Zero Hunger’ category initiated by One Young World and supported by the RB (Reckitt Benckiser) Group.
Sharma has been awarded US dollar 50,000 and will receive 12 months mentorship support from her Challenge Partner RB to help amplify the impact of her project at SOCHAI.
Winning the coveted title, Sharma has proved and set an example to aspiring youth and potential changemakers of her age.
Talking about her inspiration behind her noble initiative she said, “While interacting with the local women in Lubhu of Lalitpur district we met a mother Chirimaya, who shared the story of her neighbour Sangita (name changed). Sangita had given a birth to a baby boy and her entire family was really happy welcoming the newborn in their family. When the kid was only two months old, Sangita fed him cashewnut paste. Unfortunately, the nut paste got stuck inside child’s throat and he died.”
The tale became a turning point for Sharma. She determined to fill up the information gap that had led to the death of the Lubhu boy.
“A child must be exclusively breastfed for the first six months However, due to this information gap, a child and mother may faceunwanted fate. I was devastated to see that many innocent lives are lost due to this information gap. So, it inspired me and my team to come up with a solution to tackle this problem of poor knowledge and practice of nutrition in our community,” said Sharma, who holds Bachelors in Public Health and a Masters’ Degree in Nutrition from Purbanchal University and Tribhuvan University, respectively.
According to Sharma, the startup, Social Changemakers and Innovators (SOCHAI) is a youth led initiative with a vision to improve health and nutrition of people, particularly, women, girls and children through education, innovation and entrepreneurship at grassroot level.
The first 1,000 days of child beginning from conception to until it becomes two years is recognised as the critical window for setting the foundation for child’s overall development.
SOCHAI is primarily focused on addressing the silent emergency of malnutrition among these 1,000 days’ children, their mothers and adolescents by ensuring they are adequately informed about proper nutrition.
“The emphasis of our solution lies on promoting breastfeeding, complementary feeding and balanced diet during various life stages,” said Sharma.
SOCHAI believes that the high rate of malnutrition can be prevented with simple and affordable interventions,said Sharma.
SOCHAI creates various innovative tools such as ‘Nutribeads bracelet’ which is a low-tech wearable educational tool that informs about how to feed babies in the first two years of their life.
Our educational programmes, complemented by the use of Nutribeads bracelet are well received by the communities because it is simple, attractive and informative,” she said.
The idea of Nutribeads has also won the Asia Pacific Youth Innovation Challenge in 2016, Sharma said.
“This kind of platform and recognition boosted our confidence and encouraged us to reach more women, girls and children in the community,” she added.
Beside,they have also created a menstrual bracelet named ‘The Redcycle’ which helps young girls understand about the monthly menstrual cycle in an attractive and fun way.
“When we use this bracelet as a tool to inform the young girls about menstruation and menstrual hygiene, they get very curious and excited to wear them,” she added.
Within a year, SOCHAI has raised Rs. 120,000+ by selling Nutribeads bracelet. By selling these bracelets, the organisation has also raised fund to provide nutrition packages to 150+ disaster affected mothers and children in the Manaluwa and Simrahi villages in Morang district.
SOCHAI was chosen as one of the most impactful youth-led solution from 1,200 applicants from 100 countries around the world, which in itself a pride of every Nepali. It has sent a powerful messageto all those youths who often complain of not seeing much prospect inside Nepal.
Bonita is sure to leave an impression that regardless of situation one can still perfectly do itby studying, growing up and working in Nepal, and still be able to compete with the rest of the world.

Published Date: Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 | 08:05 PM

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