The right diet for gender equality
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.