When 13 other students and I chose to spend almost five months abroad in the ACM India Studies program, we did so for similar reasons, to challenge ourselves, to assess our individual coping skills, our potential for growth, and to see how much applied of what all of us only knew from the likes of books and movies. I hoped, more specifically, to deepen my understanding of patriarchy and its subordination of women and children in the environment of a “developing” country—awakening what one professor described as, a third-world mentality residing within a first-world infrastructure. Upon arriving in Pune, I therefore had the skeleton in place; now I needed the entrails, the meat to every bone and the flavor to every meal.
My paper, though grounded in research, derives from a real-world experience, beginning with the day a beggar tossed a starved, dead baby in my lap. Realizing emotional limits, but forever marked by the early experience, questions regarding malnutrition in the slums continued to assert themselves. Today, about 29% of India’s population suffers from malnutrition, over half of that population being under five years of age. As a result, after briefly describing the ups and downs of defining my topic—a voyage which itself reveals a side of India no researcher should ever overlook—my paper explains how my readings and desires brought me into contact with the NGO, Uplift, an opportunity which allowed me to study my chosen topic first hand. Using the definition of malnutrition as a basis, my paper goes on to describe malnutrition’s effects on women and children in the slums. Thanks to the strengths and benefits of NGO work, I began to uncover efforts in place to counteract the growing problem. In addition I will also discuss the work of Uplift within the context of other grassroots organizations while briefly considering the likelihood of a future, malnutrition-free India.
In the end I conclude that malnutrition is but a fragmented edge piece of the complex puzzle I have learned to comprehend as India. It is my belief that solutions to malnutrition cannot be isolated but must seek to penetrate the core of millennia-old cultural prescriptions and proscriptions, highlighting most specifically, the institutional subordination of women and children.
Leah Clemente, ’09 Ripon, WI
Sponsor: Aparna Thomas