Developing strategies to end hunger
 

Empower a Mother, Empower a Generation

Hunger Report Monday
Click through: Mothers play an essential role in breaking the cycle of stunting. 

Welcome to week two of our blog-wide celebration of women’s history month and International Women’s Day (#IWD)! In the past week, we’ve done our best to highlight a few (of many) ways that women uphold societies and propel economies forward, while pointing to some of the (also many) areas where inequality persists. One of the most basic of these is getting access to nutritious food.  

If you have visited this blog or skimmed our twitter feed at any point in the last year, you will have had to work very hard to avoid terms such as severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the 1,000 Days, and stunting. It’s no secret that a concern with nutrition – the quality of food — needs to accompany any focus on food access and food security. As we’ve mentioned before — often – it’s not just about food, but about good quality, well timed, locally sourced, and sustainably produced food.

Today we add another layer — equally accessible food. If we had a Venn diagram with overlapping circles for hunger and gender equality, the overlap would be equally accessible food. As I said in last week’s Hunger Report Monday, there are many reasons that women in much of the developing world are far more likely to go hungry than men are. This inequity is especially unnerving considering the direct link between the health of a mother and the prospect of a healthy start for her children.

20120427_NP_CareDevtOrg_0118F

The 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2 is critical to physical and cognitive development. The health and well-being of a child younger than 2 rests almost entirely in the hands of her mother, and an inability to provide the right nutrients can result in lasting damage to both brain and body.

If a woman was undernourished as a child, her own children are far more likely to suffer the same fate. Put more positively, the past two generations of progress against hunger have put women today in a strong position to end the cycle of malnutrition and stunting. But significant social change will be needed for large numbers of women to be able to accomplish this for their families.

It starts with securing equality long before a woman starts a family. This means, first of all, that a girl must be an adult – 18 or older – before she is married. She must have a true choice as to whether to get married. She needs access to education, work that offers her equal pay, and, yes, food, before she can make informed decisions about pregnancy and parenting. The road to gender equality has never been clearly paved, or without opposition in any country, and too many women are still far off from the destination. Broad social change has a lot of “moving parts.” But investments in gender equality will literally pay dividends for generations.
Gender equity is one key pillar to building global development, and one of the eight Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), discussed in the 2013 Hunger Report Explore more links between hunger, agriculture and gender issues at www.hungerreport.org. Derek Schwabe

 

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