With a gender focus, benefits multiply

gender-focus

CGIAR fully recognizes and supports the central role women play in achieving sustainable nutrition within households and among communities. We cannot improve the nutrition of household members, and young children in particular, without first improving women’s own nutrition and health - as well as their decision-making power related to expenditures, time use, caring practices and access to resources. Attention to gender, the role of both women and of men, in value chains and agricultural programs is critical.

The link between educating mothers – which should start with young girls – and better-nourished children, is well established. Results from a CGIAR project that sought to improve nutrition in Western Kenya through diverse local foods showed that providing nutrition education to caregivers or mothers led to infants and children from 6-23 months enjoying a healthier diet. Another promising model combines home garden promotion with nutrition and health education. CGIAR evaluated a program run by Helen Keller International in Burkina Faso that focused on planting home gardens, raising small animals, and providing information about optimal health and nutrition behaviors through locally trained volunteers. In addition to positive impacts on the mothers’ knowledge and nutritional status, researchers found that young children in the study experienced reduced prevalence of anemia, wasting and diarrhea, as well as improved likelihood of meeting their minimum dietary diversity requirements.

Fighting child malnutrition in the Sahelian region is a daunting task, with almost 30% of under-five Malian children being stunted. Yet, a nutrition leader trained by CGIAR and partners, Aminata Sanogo, has sparked a nutrition revolution. She cooks Tô, a finely ground flour, with whole grain sorghum, unthinkable in a society where women are expected to pound away at the mortar to remove the outer seed coat (bran), a common practice which removes half of the grain’s iron and zinc content. Aminata has been teaching women to cook sorghum and millet grains using the whole grain or mixing it with protein-rich legumes like cow pea. Eating whole grain not only means better nutrition but also frees up time for women, which they then can use for childcare and other activities.

Photo: Aminata Sanogo © ICRISAT

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