Finding that first job after graduating from college is never easy. And the 60-plus Ugandan students who graduate every year with a degree related to nutrition would agree. While they leave the university with solid theoretical grounding in nutrition, they have little practical, real-world experience—which is what employers are looking for.
To provide these graduates with a smoother transition to the workplace, USAID funded FANTA project implemented the Uganda Nutrition Fellowship (UNF) from 2013 to 2016. A select group of fellows received a unique mix of practical work experience—each was placed inside a hospital, clinic, NGO, or ministry—combined with professional development opportunities such as leadership training, mentoring, and career advice.
Being exposed to a range of nutrition topics in real-world settings was a game changer. Fellows gained first-hand experience tackling nutrition governance issues such as advocacy, coordination, policy development, planning, implementation, social and behavior change communication, and capacity strengthening. Challenged to develop an individual project related to their work, many chose topics that addressed the nutrition challenges in Uganda, such as outpatient care and clinical management of acute malnutrition and improving the nutrition status of infants and young children.
Bernadette Apio Okira, who was placed with the USAID Community Connector Project in Lira district for her fellowship, said the experience “…enabled me to understand the multisectoral approach of nutrition and understand how nutrition is a cross-cutting issue.” Ms. Okira is now a volunteer for the Uganda Police Force Medical Services, which partners with USAID HIV/Health Initiatives in Workplaces Activity (HIWA) project to reduce the incidence of HIV and other communicable diseases among members of the Uganda police force, wildlife authority staff, and communities in conservation areas.
Rebecca Namara described her experience as invaluable: “The highlight [of the fellowship] was getting to interact with policy makers… ministers…and department heads. These are the people behind the policies, guidelines, and all of the documents that guide the different projects and implementation of nutrition activities in Uganda.” Ms. Namara went on to work for Uganda’s Ministry of Health, Nutrition Division and the USAID Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance project.
Here is what other fellows had to say about their experience.
The benefit of participating in the UNF for the fellows was clear: the 19 graduates who successfully completed the fellowship are actively engaged in the nutrition field. Equally exciting, though, is how the host organizations also benefitted: They gained dedicated and motivated volunteers to support their work to improve nutrition in Uganda. Perhaps, then, it’s no exaggeration to say that Uganda also benefitted from the USAID fellowship program. As Dr. Hanifa Bachou, who was the Project Manager, observed: “What we have learned…is that if we really invest in these young nutritionists, then the country has a lot to gain.”
View this compelling documentary where recent graduates in the field of nutrition tell the story of their opportunities for work experience, professional development, and mentorship from several host organizations through the Uganda Nutrition Fellowship.
Project: Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance Project (FANTA III)
Funded by: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)