Ines Fernandez

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Ines Fernandez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
Ines Fernandez is tackling malnutrition among infants and young children by empowering and mobilizing the most vital and direct stakeholders of this problem—mothers. In the face of aggressive advertising by baby food companies, Ines realized that informed mothers can be the most credible and effective messengers about nutrition to other mothers. Through her organization, Arugaan (a Filipino word that means to “nurture fully”), Ines is empowering young and old mothers alike to understand the benefits of breastfeeding and nutritious baby food preparation with locally available ingredients. The trained mothers that make up Arugaan’s team serve as experts in lactation and nutritious food preparation to communities and trigger the creation of mother-to-mother support groups to spread best practices. Ines’ team works simultaneously with health professionals and day care providers to adopt and support these practices as a say to reinforce a new pathway to improved child and maternal nutrition.

Building from her work in mainly urban areas, Ines is now focused on increasing nutrition outcomes and resilience among mothers in rural communities, particularly those most vulnerable to frequent natural disasters. By extending the presence of mother-to-mother support groups in these areas, Ines is helping mothers adopt breastfeeding and local food preparation as way not only to reduce the cases of malnutrition, but also increase their own resilience. The mothers become empowered to create their own locally available baby food and breastfeed. In doing so, they avoid the traps that come from the use of formulas and processed foods both in terms of their expense and risk of supply disruption during disasters. Ines also helps the mother-to-mother groups become advocates for spreading what actions to take during disasters to keep themselves and their babies alive and well.

Through the network of mother-to-mother groups and her team’s work with health professionals, Ines is creating a more mother-baby friendly environment in homes, communities and in the healthcare system while reducing the cases of malnourishment and even mortality caused by inadequate infant and child feeding practices.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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