Empowering women and engaging men in Sustainable Nutrition for All

household dynamics

Deirdre McMahon, SNV nutrition expert, outlines the links between gender and nutrition. She highlights how SNV’s SN4A approach keeps gender analysis at its core. Read on to learn about the role of intra-household decision-making and gender sensitive tools, and hear testimonials from community members.

2020 sets the ten year countdown to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. 2020 will also culminate in the milestone event, Nutrition for Growth Tokyo, hosted by the Government of Japan. The summit is an unprecedented opportunity to set the global community on the ten year pathway to ending malnutrition in all its forms. Empowering women and engaging men is critical for adequate nutrition. Hence, the summit offers a unique opportunity for governments, donors and other actors to make gender transformative commitments.

SN4A approach and intra-household decision-making

SNV’s Sustainable Nutrition for All (SN4A) recognises the impact of gender inequality on nutrition. SN4A engages both women and men within the community to review and address intra-household decision making on food production, expenditure, consumption and allocation, as well as women’s workload that often affect care practices. Women are better able to care for themselves and their children when demands on their time and their need to do physical labour are reduced. Women’s control over household assets and use of income leads to better diets for women and children.

Testimonial: 'I always love having a clean home with plenty of food, health and clean children, unfortunately the routine tasks I have overwhelm me, and several tasks are carried forward each and every day making me suffer from time poverty. Now that the last two seasons failed, I struggle to get food for this family and my husband does not actively help me.'- Female community member, Kasese District, Uganda.

From SNV’s experience in Uganda and Zambia, gender can be effectively integrated in nutrition interventions. At the start of the programme, a gender capacity and needs assessment  was conducted as part of the situation analysis to better understand the gender constraints related to nutrition security. Training and mentoring in gender and nutrition was carried out with district, sub-district, local and religious leaders, who in turn facilitated trainings with community members.

Testimonial: During a gender awareness session, a religious leader said, 'We have been blaming the rotten state of health, feeding and WASH in homes to other issues not knowing that unequal division of roles between men and women, boys and girls is the root cause of all this. We are going to integrate innovations of reducing women’s workload like construction of energy saving stoves, construction of water tanks, jointly participating in food production, allocating wood lots to women into our pastoral sermons and couple seminars, and we anticipate to see a change. This seminar has been of great value to me,' said Ven. Reverend Mbusa Charles the Arch-deacon of Kisinga Arch-deaconry, Uganda.

Gender sensitive social and behavior change communication (SBCC) tools

Gender sensitive social and behavior change communication (SBCC) tools were continually used to positively affect women’s self-efficacy and skills; women’s control of income and assets and household decision making, and women’s workload. SBCC actively reached all members of the family, including fathers and elders, in a culturally appropriate way that both respected and challenged traditional gender roles. Experience has showed the value of engaging support from local political or traditional leaders or headmen who serve as male role models.

Testimonial: 'I cherish the capacity building approach that SN4A project has used, the knowledge I have gained in nutrition and gender will remain part of me forever', said Ivan Bwambale, the Sub county chief of Kisinga Sub county.

Including men in nutrition activities and discussions has helped them recognise the importance of providing nutritious food to their families and increasing their participation in household chores related to child care and feeding.

Testimonial: 'Before the project, men never used to help in cooking of food, unless the wife is sick. Nowadays our husbands assist in household chores that were initially considered to be for women,'- Nutrition Action Group member Muyeleka Hub, Uganda

SNV’s SN4A colleagues and communities endorse that although gender equality is a goal in its own right, it is also critical in eliminating malnutrition. As aptly framed in the 2020 Nutrition for Growth Commitment guide, stakeholders 'should consider the differentiated impacts that their 2020 commitment may have on all individuals of all genders and the role that gender has in determining nutrition outcomes. If the answer to this question is yes, then it is likely that the pledge will contribute to reaching the global nutrition goals.'

Written by Deirdre McMahon.