Before I joined 1,000 Days, I already knew that this was a team I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to continue to work on nutrition and what better place than at 1,000 Days, an organization led by women and dedicated to improving nutrition and ensuring women and children have the healthiest first 1,000 days. I was able to join 1,000 Days for a year as a Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellow, which has provided me a great community of public health advocates, alongside the opportunity to continue to advocate for nutrition.
I started my work on nutrition advocacy by working for the Zambia Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) in 2014. I was motivated by my own first-hand experience with the heavy price of inequitable health services and I wanted to be a part of efforts that improve health systems as well as people’s lives.
Working in a country where malnutrition rates are among the highest globally, I became aware of the negative effects of malnutrition and the ways in which it continues to trap people in poverty. Malnutrition exerts pressure on health care systems and can deny children basic opportunities to maximize their potential. Stunting, a chronic form of malnutrition that impairs cognitive and physical growth, affects 151 million children worldwide. In Zambia alone, 40% of all children are stunted. I dedicated my time in Zambia advocating to improve the nutrition of these children to policymakers.
At 1,000 Days, I was also able to bring my campaign efforts as a Youth Advocate with Global Citizen to my work. This community allowed me to have a global stage and to share my own stories and those of the people I worked with in Zambia. I was honored to speak about Good Food and Nutrition at a side-event during the United Nations General Assembly and help launch the #Bethegeneration campaign at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
It was an exciting time to be with 1,000 Days. I was able to be a part of two groundbreaking events in the global nutrition movement: the Global Nutrition Summit in Milan, Italy and the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Gathering in Abidjan, Cote, D’Ivoire. In Milan, the Global Nutrition Summit brought forth new commitments from new funders. In Abidjan, I was united with hundreds of people from around the world working towards a malnutrition free world.
I’ve had the chance to deepen my understanding of how nutrition impacts development, including exploring the linkages between nutrition and other sectors. During World Water Week, I explored how poor WASH systems and a lack of access to good nutrition, combined with conflict, can undermine the resilience of already vulnerable populations.
As my year at 1,000 Days comes to a close, I am reminded of my first day at 1,000 days. I moved from Zambia to Washington, DC for this opportunity and my excitement, anticipation and optimism were at a high. The time at 1,000 Days did not disappoint. It allowed me to apply a different lens to my advocacy and awakened me to the global scale of the problem of malnutrition — and how much remains to be done. But despite this challenge, I have also seen the many advocates and coalitions that have committed themselves to this work, making me optimistic about the future of the world’s children.
P.S. Watch Mwandwe chat more about her experience at 1,000 Days here.