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Suchona Chakma lives in Nobin Chandra in the Khagrachari district of Bangladesh with her two daughters and husband. They do not have any land or a house of their own so they are living with another household. Her husband is a tenant farmer; he cultivates other peoples’ land and gains 50% of the total product. He sometimes sells his labor but the income from it is not enough to meet his family’s needs. Suchona Chakma is an educated woman who passed the SSC examination. She has always tried to work towards the betterment of her family. Entering the Making Markets Work for Women (M2W2) project as a group member she received orientation and training about home gardening, poultry rearing, and input support. She also received training on nutrition education including IYCF, gender and group marketing. Last year she earned about 30,000 taka by selling different vegetables for family consumption. This year she is expecting to earn more from ginger, poultry, and goat from the support she received from the project. “We are more solvent than we were before when I had to wait for 10 years to have my second baby, as our financial condition was not good. It has only been possible through my hard work and the working opportunity provided by M2W2”, said Suchona Chakma.

“Before, I could not give my daughter a good meal, a nice dress, and a private tutor. Now I can.”

Suchona and her family incorporate vegetables into all their meals, which has made their diets much more healthy. Their vegetable-rich diet has prevented malnutrition and diseases, since they do not get sick as often as they used to. Suchona has also learned about the special nutritional needs of growing girls, pregnant women, lactating mothers, and other members of the family. Her family has become stronger and healthier through better nutrition. Suchona’s gardening surplus is often sold for additional income, enabling her family to access healthcare. The additional income has also given them access to high quality animal foods, and provided opportunities for them to save money for other expenses, including education for their children. “My older daughter is now reading in class five. I want my children to have proper education. Before, I could not give my daughter a good meal, a nice dress, and a private tutor. Now I can,” said Suchona.

Suchona shared that the important lessons on health and nutrition have been taught through regular courtyard sessions and individual counseling. She also added “There were some strong beliefs in our community so after birth I did not breast feed my first daughter. She had a low birth weight and has always suffered from different diseases because I did not eat well, take IFA tablets, or make extra time to rest when I was pregnant with her, all of which are things I did during my second pregnancy. My second daughter is healthy and sickness-free and I am exclusively breast feeding her.” Suchona recalls the days before her involvement in M2W2 when she had no alternative but to eat lower quality foods only once or twice a day because there was not enough. Finally Suchona says, “This project has changed my life and the lives of my family members. In the future I plan to purchase land and a house of our own.”