Learning to grow seasonal vegetables at school then recreating a vegetable garden at home.
Becoming more active and breaking gender stereotypes through karate sessions.
Learning about nutritional needs as a teenage girl and sharing this information with friends.
These are just three things 15-year-old Akhimoni has achieved since taking part in Plan International’s Joint Action for Nutrition Outcome (JANO) project through her school in Rangpur, northern Bangladesh.
With support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the JANO project brings together activities spanning nutrition, health and gender to boost teenagers’ knowledge, wellbeing and independence.
Players of the lottery have raised more than £15 Million for Plan International UK, helping them to continue their work to transform the lives of children and their families living in poverty in over 50 counties around the world, including Bangladesh.
Malnutrition is an ongoing issue for children in Bangladesh, especially girls. Left unaddressed, this can have immediate health impacts and lead to long-term health problems later in life, such as maternal mortality, child mortality and premature childbirth.
In Rangpur, 36% of children are underweight and 42% have stunted growth. Getting to the root causes of malnutrition in teens means taking a rounded approach that encourages better habits and gives young people more control over their wellbeing.
The JANO project aims to support over 420,000 young people in Bangladesh through activities including climate-smart school gardens, gender equity movement in schools (GEMS) sessions, theatre groups – and karate lessons.
For Akhimoni, going to school is one of her favourite things. When she’s there, she takes part in gender equality movement sessions, has learnt karate and tends to her school garden.
“I have a vegetable garden in my home which I made using what I learned from the school garden. As a result of doing this, I can fulfil the nutrition demand of my family. The joy and peace you feel after doing something by yourself. It can’t be explained by words," said Akhimoni.
“Karate means to defend oneself empty-handed. Doing karate gives us means to defend oneself empty-handed,” says Akhimoni. “Doing karate gives us a mental self-confidence boost. We get rid of our fears. What’s more, we also become physically fit learning it. I feel like all girls should learn karate.”
Pallabi and Razia
Pallabi and Razia’s rooftop school garden is their pride and joy. The school friends spend every spare minute of the school day nurturing the crops – an activity that has inspired them to nurture their own lives too. The two girls are from different religious backgrounds but have built a strong friendship through their love of gardening.
“The garden helps me in many ways to be a better person because I am inspired by how these little plants are growing day by day,” says Pallabi. “Our life would grow well - just like these plants - if we take care of our lives properly. We will be successful if we take care of our lives like this."
Through the project, Pallabi and Razia have helped transform the garden into one rich with fruits and vegetables, where students can learn first-hand how to grow healthy food all year round.
“I like the fact that I am taking care of the vegetables myself. I am cultivating these plants and nurturing them to grow,” Razia says. “I felt inspired that I would benefit if I could grow them at home too. I made a garden at my home. I take care of the garden and the plants in it. I feel proud that I care for my plants.”
Working closely with the local community, Plan International hopes to help equip the next generation to improve not only their own wellbeing but that of their families and communities.
Kathleen Spencer Chapman - director of communications and advocacy at Plan International UK, said: "Poverty and inequality disproportionately affect women and children around the world. Support from People’s Postcode Lottery players enables us to work with girls through innovative projects like the JANO programme in Bangladesh, so that their voices are heard and their rights are realised."
Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have been supporting Plan International since 2017, raising £15.6 million to help with their work for children’s rights and equality for girls around the world. Thanks to our incredible players Plan International can support other girls and young people just like Akhimoni, Pallabi and Razia, and make a difference to so many other lives.”