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The Gender Nutrition Gap encompasses the unique biological needs of women and girls, disparities in access to food and services, and harmful social norms that impact their health and economic outcomes. Urgent action is needed to address this gap, as highlighted during the launch event organized by FHI360 at the Women Deliver conference in Kigali, Rwanda. Distinguished panelists shared valuable insights, emphasizing the importance of collective action to tackle the challenges and improve nutrition for women and girls worldwide.

“2 out of 3 women in the world are facing issues with undernutrition, anemia and micronutrient deficiencies affecting their lives and the lives of their children. We aren’t able to address inequalities in gender if we don’t address this issue as well.”

– Saskia Osendarp, Executive Director, Micronutrient Forum and moderator at the launch of the Gender Nutrition Gap

Panelists at the launch of the Gender Nutrition Gap at the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali, Rwanda.
Panelists at the launch of the Gender Nutrition Gap at the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo by Zamda Kavamahanga.

The Role of Nutrition as a Gender Issue

Alarming statistics reveal that over 1 billion girls suffer from malnutrition, posing risks to both mothers and newborns. This increase in acute malnutrition among pregnant or breastfeeding women by 25 percent between 2020 and 2022 is influenced by climate change, political instabilities, and food crises.

“Much like the pay gap, the technology gap, data gap, there is a gender nutrition gap also.”

– Pauline Mapfumo, a Youth Nutrition Advocate and Nutritionist from Zimbabwe

Dr. Anita Zaidi, President of Gender Equality at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, stressed the need to view nutrition as a gender issue, as malnutrition reflects gender inequalities. It is essential to make nutritious diets available and establish effective social protection systems to address these challenges. “Household dynamics are one of the reasons that lead to malnutrition in women.”

Dr. Ajay Khera, Country Representative at EngenderHealth, highlighted the interconnectedness of undernutrition and gender inequality. Investing in the healthcare sector is critical to overcome barriers that prevent women from seeking necessary healthcare services.

“Undernutrition amplifies gender inequality because of lack of proper education, and employment opportunities which means it leads to gender inequality, both are interlinked. Good nutrition and gender equality are mutually reinforcing.”

– Dr. Ajay Khera, EngenderHealth

Collective Actions and Political Will

Solving the gender nutrition gap requires collective actions, and political will plays a significant role. With the aid of data, policies can be shaped to ensure access to affordable food and promote socioeconomic empowerment as sustainable solutions to malnutrition.

Vivianne Ihekweazu. Photo by Zamda Kavamahanga

Vivianne Ihekweazu, Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch, emphasized the existence of cultural barriers that lead to malnutrition among women and girls. Intervention is crucial to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, where malnourished adolescent girls give birth to malnourished babies.

“When nutritional needs are met, women and girls reach their full productivity and potential. In Nigeria, we are working at the federal level and at state level to have women in decision making positions and with communities to make this happen.”

– Vivianne Ihekweazu, Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch

The Path Forward to Close the Gender Nutrition Gap

Pauline Mapfumo, a Youth Nutrition Advocate and Nutritionist from Zimbabwe, concluded the panel by emphasizing the consequences of failing to close the nutrition gap. Closing the gap requires collective efforts beyond food access and necessitates the empowerment of women in all sectors. Policy revisions are crucial to drive change and ensure the existence of comprehensive solutions.

Call to Action

The launch event also marked the initiation of a campaign to close the gender nutrition gap. You can become a “gap closer” by joining the expanding coalition at gendernutritiongap.org. Adoption of the Action Agenda in your work and amplifying the “Close the Gender Nutrition Gap” campaign on social media (#gendernutritiongap, #closethegap) are effective ways to contribute to this vital cause.

The Gender Nutrition Gap poses a significant challenge to the health and well-being of women and girls globally. Through collective action, political will, and policy revisions, we can work towards closing this gap and ensuring access to proper nutrition for all. By joining the movement and advocating for change, we can create a brighter and healthier future for women and girls worldwide.

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