The right diet for gen­der equal­ity

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

To im­prove nutri­tion out­comes for girls and women, we need to scale up proven nutri­tion in­ter­ven­tions and en­sure that other de­vel­op­ment pro­grams take nutri­tion into ac­count. It is crit­i­cal, for ex­am­ple, that we pro­mote early and im­me­di­ate breast­feed­ing – an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful tool against both stunt­ing and obe­sity.

De­vel­op­ment poli­cies and pro­grammes must also take gen­der im­bal­ances into con­sid­er­a­tion. So­cial pro­tec­tion pro­grams that im­prove women’s con­trol of in­come transfers, for ex­am­ple, are linked to bet­ter nutri­tion out­comes for them and their fam­i­lies.

In many coun­tries, women eat last in the fam­ily, re­duc­ing their chances of get­ting the right nutri­tion. Ma­ter­nity and breast­feed­ing pro­vi­sions are also weak, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for women to nurse their chil­dren. Be­hav­iour-change pro­grammes, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and role mod­el­ling can all be help­ful in weak­en­ing the grip of harmful so­cial norms con­cern­ing nutri­tion and gen­der.

Ac­com­plish­ing this will re­quire a blue­print for po­lit­i­cal ac­tion. On June 14, the 2016 Global Nutri­tion Re­port will launch glob­ally. The re­port aims to as­sess progress, im­prove ac­count­abil­ity for meet­ing global com­mit­ments, and rec­om­mend ac­tions for gov­ern­ment and key stake­hold­ers to end all forms of mal­nu­tri­tion by 2030.

The con­ver­sa­tion must be­gin to­day. Last week, the Women De­liver 2016 Con­fer­ence – the largest meet­ing of girls’ and women’s ad­vo­cates in a decade – took place in Copen­hagen. More than 5,000 global lead­ers, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, and ad­vo­cates from 150 coun­tries con­vened to dis­cuss, among other is­sues, how to break the cy­cle of poverty and gen­der in­equal­ity that un­der­mines women’s health. The call for ac­tion to sever the link be­tween nutri­tion and gen­der in­equal­ity must be loud enough to echo around the world.

We must elim­i­nate all fac­tors that per­pet­u­ate gen­der in­equal­ity. And that starts with bet­ter nutri­tion for all. The next cen­tury of progress de­pends on it.

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