An older Nepali woman smiles and sits on a hill overlooking a field

Listen to Your Mother-in-Law

A trusted source dispenses healthy advice on Nepal’s radios.

By Laura Cech • Photo by Shehzad Noorani

When Center for Communication Programs (CCP) staff sought a VIP to star in a media campaign about nutrition in Nepal, they didn’t enlist a celebrity. They turned to a very influential person: a mother-in-law.

“She’s a trusted voice who people go to for information,” says Caroline Jacoby, senior program officer at CCP.

Nepali mothers-in-law not only are respected by their extended families, but also are willing to change traditions to benefit their grandchildren, research shows.

That’s why “Aama” was created. The mother-in-law—portrayed by a local actress—stars in a popular twice-weekly radio drama called Bhanchhin Aama (translated: “Mother Knows”), and a call-in program.

“She answers in a practical way,” says Shreejana K.C., social and behavior change communication manager of Suaahara Nutrition Program.

Johns Hopkins is among seven organizations collaborating on Suaahara in Nepal, where 41 percent of children are stunted because of lack of nutrition.

Since Bhanchhin Aama first aired in November 2013, it has received nearly 140,000 calls. Recent data suggests that more than half of the targeted audience is tuning in and making changes based on what they hear.

The Aama character speaks directly to women, who do most of the childrearing, cleaning and farming, says Jacoby, adding that she is widely perceived as warm, knowledgeable and non-judgmental: “Aama is your dream mother-in-law.”