The Crucial Role of Nutrition in the Fight for Gender Equity: G8 Summit 2013

As the 2013 G8 summit is underway, it is important to highlight the meeting’s impact on global gender equity.

The Group of Eight (G8) comprised of France, the United States, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Russia typically targets global economic and social development issues, trade, labor, and foreign affairs. Other countries may decide to adopt suggestions and declarations developed by the G8. This year’s summit has focused on the crisis in Syria, global tax and trade transparency, and food security.

On June 8, the Nutrition for Growth meeting was held preceding the summit as a way to “expand the reach” of the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition that was established in 2012. The Nutrition for Growth conference pledged to donate $3.6 billion to feed undernourished children.

The Lancet, a leading medical journal, has recently presented new research suggesting that more people are malnourished globally than previously estimated. Professor Robert Black of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a team of researchers suggest that nutrition should be a global priority – a priority for the G8 conference as a way to combat world-wide poverty, and that it is inherently linked to gender equity. The researchers explain how direly important nutrition is for pregnant women and a child’s first 1000 days – from conception to two years. Please refer to a previous post and great read written by fellow blogger, Bernadette Lim, regarding the importance of the first 1000 days here.

According to an article published by the BBC, the study by Black and his team “confirms that hundreds of thousands more children are dying from malnutrition than previously thought.”

The research also suggests that 45% of the global deaths of children under the age of five are attributed to malnutrition, and an “estimated 900,000 lives could be saved in 34 countries if 10 proven nutritional interventions were scaled up.”

According to a recent UN report, “malnutrition is estimated to cost the world $3.5 trillion or $500 for every person- in health care and lost productivity.”

The researchers of The Lancet report explain that, “countries will not break out of poverty unless nutrition becomes a global priority.”

The editor of The Lancet remarked that the benefits of focusing on maternal and child nutrition would accrue and extend over generations.

“The Enough Food for Everyone (IF) Campaign has called for $1 billion per year in additional aid money to be spent on malnutrition by 2015” by the G8. You can follow coverage of the G8 summit through the IF@G8 live blog here!

An article by Sarah Degnan Kambou, the president of the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) published in The Guardian’s blog, Poverty Matters, takes this idea a step beyond health, and explains how essential women are as food producers for their families and communities, not so much as they are consumers. The article goes on to explain how domestic violence reduces food production in families and creates unstable home environments. In many settings, women are the sole provider for their families. Women may be physically and mentally abused to the extent that they “are unable to work, earn an income, or care for themselves, let alone…their children.” “More often than not it (domestic violence) stems from profound gender inequality, is inextricably tangled in social and cultural norms, and is fueled by economic strife.”

The cycle must not continue. The G8 has been called to recognize gender equity as being entangled with food security on various levels. Not only should nutrition and food security remain at the top of the agenda for the G8, its relation to gender equity is a key component. Thus far, the G8 has taken on the issue of gender equity as it relates to areas of war and conflict. The G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict was adopted in April of this year. Although invaluable, the document and the G8 does not go on to discuss the relationship between gender equity and nutrition and other secondary benefits of placing gender equity past the war-zones and at the top of the agenda.

Since its inception, the G8 has been under some scrutiny – that the group has not done enough to prevent or ameliorate important global dilemmas such as global warming, HIV/AIDS, and poverty in the face of rapid globalization. Some organizations such as the World Development Movement argue that the nutrition agenda for the G8 summit is supporting corporate agendas rather than local communities self-sustainability. The G8 summits have often been characterized with protests.

An article reporting on an audit of the progress that the G8 has made since the 2012 summit at Camp David mentions that more needs to be done to ensure progress is made on the gender equity front.

The debate on the best approach for reducing global poverty is ongoing. It is important to continue the discussion and continue questioning the process, but also, informing those in power. It is crucial to call on the G8 to make the right decisions. Once the dialogue begins and individuals become truly invested in the lives of the marginalized, it is only time until awareness spreads and progress occurs – if we are persistent.

Read the outlines of the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, Nutrition for Growth, and the Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict to see what you think!

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Category: Development    Health    Politics
Tagged with: Enough Food for Everyone    Food Security    G8    Gender Equality    global poverty    ICRW    Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health    malnutrition    Nutrition    Professor Robert Black    The Lancet

Liz Fortier

Liz earned a Master’s of Public Health degree from New York University in 2012, during which she researched harm reduction measures for intravenous drug users, and worked for a diabetes prevention research study in East Harlem. Liz traveled to Mexico and South Africa with NYU to understand the approaches taken toward improving community health in those countries. Liz has consistently been invested in the health of marginalized populations and improving access to health care for those living in poverty. As a way to entrench herself in one of the world’s most impoverished cities, Liz volunteered at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. Liz spent 2013 in South Korea teaching English and investigating gender issues there. She is eager to share what she has learned about health and poverty and how those issues relate to gender equity. Liz lives in Brooklyn, New York. Be inspired to take action toward global gender equity! Follow Liz on Twitter @LizAFort

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