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Gender and food and nutrition


By Brigitte Bagnol

Research Associate, Department of Anthropology. University of the

Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Veterinary Science and Charles Perkins
Centre, The University of Sydney, Australia
Researcher associated with the International Rural Poultry Centre (IRPC),
KYEEMA Foundation, Australia,
The South Asian enigma

Why are child malnutrition rates higher in South

Asia than in sub-Saharan Africa even though each
has similar poverty rates and public expenditures in
health, and South Asia has more food availability?

Ramalingaswami, Jonsson, and Rohde (1996)

The answer:
The answer lies in the low social status of
women in South Asia, specifically that
undereducated women with only limited
economic opportunities are unable to fully
protect their families nutrition.

Kurz M. Kathleen and Johnson-Welch Charlotte. 2000. Enhancing nutrition results: The case
for a womens approach. International Center for the Research on Women/OMNI.

Women carry out:

Most of the agriculture work;
Most of the food conservation;
Most of the household food preparation;
Most of the water and sanitation activities;
Most of the health care for children, adults
and elderly.
Central role of women in agriculture,
health and nutrition

The key to achieving better family nutrition is
through ensuring that women have the set of
resources they need to carry out their primary
caretaker role, including the decision-making
authority to use those resources to the familys
optimal benefit (Mehra 1994; Desai 1993,
McGuire and Popkin 1990; Leslie and Paolisso
1989; Rogers and Youssef 1988; Piwoz and Viteri
1987; Jolly 1985)
Gender inequities as a basic cause of
There is increasing
international recognition
that gender inequities are a
major social determinant of
health and nutritional

Nube, M., Relationships between undernutrition

prevalence among children and adult women at
national and subnational level. European Journal
of Clinical Nutrition, 2005. 59(10): p. 1112-1120.

Tripathi, R., K. Deering, and N. Saracini, What

works for women: proven approaches for
empowering women smallholder [Online] 2012.
Available at:

Put women at the centre
The current situation offers plenty
of potential for improvement
Recommendation: Reduce gender
Empower women by all means
and reduce gender inequalities
at all levels.
Educate women as they are less
likely to have undernourished
children and as they usually have
their first child at a letter age
than less educated women.
Give nutrition education to both
men and women and involve
men in sharing women task to
reduce their burden.

The author would like to acknowledge the support given by:

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural

Research (ACIAR),
The Australian Agency for International Development
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO),
The KYEEMA Foundation,
The Charles Perkins Centre Food and Nutrition Security
Project Node and,
The University of Sydney.
Thank you for your attention