Last Friday, winners of the New Vision Ugandans Making A Difference received their prizes in a colourful ceremony at Vision Group head offices in Kampala, writes Andrew Masinde
There is a group of women many people hold in high regard. It is assumed they know it all; what to eat and when, before and during pregnancy and after childbirth, how to prepare food, feed and nourish their children and everything about nutrition and hygiene. Blurred by this stereotype, no one ever dares teach the corporate women how to feed their children for both physical and mental wellbeing. But one woman was insightful; she saw a gap where everyone else could not. She knew malnutrition affected all – the elite, semi-elite and uneducated alike.
She knew, according to statistics, many corporate mothers lacked vital information about the right foods to give to their children, let alone the methods of preparation. She went in straight to plug the gap by organising seminars and outreaches to teach these mothers proper nutrition and hygiene as much as she did to the lowly women in the slums. And it worked! That woman is Catherine Ruhweza (popularly known as Mama Tendo) the founder and executive director of Mama Tendo Foundation. And for her consistent effort and contribution, Ruhweza won the coveted overall nutrition award in the recently concluded Ugandan’s Making a Difference project.
The annual event, a New Vision initiative, recognises people who contribute to positive change in their communities. This year’s theme focused on malnutrition; recognising individuals and organisations making strides in the fight against malnutrition. The first runner-up, Opio Kizito, a student of agricultural science and entrepreneurship at Uganda Christian University, Mukono bagged a cash prize of sh5m.
Opio initiative organises practical classes at the university, where he teaches fellow students and other people in the community about nutrition. Back in his home area in Amolatar district, northern Uganda, Opio, as a teacher organised his students in groups, taught them and encouraged them to use the available school land to grow potatoes, vegetables and fruits to supplement their meals.
The school children, who used to feed entirely on posho and beans, now have balanced meals. They also have extra food to sell. The second runner-up, Elizabeth Masaba, won a cash prize of sh2m. Masaba, a public health nurse and nutrition counsellor at Kawempe Health Centre IV, was recognised for teaching mothers proper ways of feeding, using her own resources, to avert malnutrition.
John Bosco Ojakor, an agronomist and nutritionist from Ongino sub-county in Kumi district, emerged third runner-up and got a cash prize of sh1m. After realising that many children in his sub-county were malnourished because of lack of information on the part of parents, Ojakor set out to teach parents, especially mothers, food nutrients, and give them practical lessons on methods of food preparation and child feeding
First runner-up, Opio shows his cheque ,Eremu hands over a certificate and cheque to Masaba, the second runner up
Uganda loses billions to address malnutrition
With statistics from The Cost of Hunger report, indicating that Uganda loses sh1.8b as a result of child under-nutrition, these people’s contribution cannot be overemphasised. It is for this reason that this year the New Vision chose to focus on nutrition. The project, supported by the Southern Africa Trust, was carried out in collaboration with the Uganda National NGO Forum.
Over 100 nominations were received in the projects that ran from August 5 to October 3, 2013. Altogether, 40 nutrition-related stories and profiles were published in the New Vision. It is from these that a panel of judges, all experts in nutrition, population and community work, selected the winners, considering the magnitude of contribution, community impact, results produced, the process, food preservation methods, use of local food resources to fight malnutrition and the ability to disseminate knowledge and skills to vulnerable mothers and children. Other issues considered were; affordability, acceptability and sustainability of the projects.
New Vision Editor John Kakande handing over a certificate to John Bosco Ojakor Ongino
The judges were Peterson Kikomeko, the Uganda Action for Nutrition general secretary; Dr. Robert Mwadime, the Chief of Party Of USAID Community Connector project; and Eunice Musiime, the team leader for Policy and Advocacy at the Uganda National NGO Forum. According to New Vision Features editor, John Eremu, this was a way of saying thanks to the community.
Eremu requested all the winners to work even harder to serve the community. Gervase Ndyanabo, Vision Group’s chief operations officer, commended the winners and appealed to those who did not emerge among the best not consider themselves losers. “The fact that you were nominated by members of your community and profiled shows that the community appreciates your work. Continue working even harder because your communities out there have faith in you,” he counselled.