Systemic malnutrition hinders the empowerment of women in many societies and denies such nations and families the opportunity of reaping the benefits of empowered women.
Professor Ibiyemi Olayiwola, who was the Keynote Speaker at the Protein Challenge Webinar Series 3 under the theme “Empowering Women to Break the Cycle of Malnutrition in Nigeria” said the solution is to break the vicious cycle of malnutrition amongst women through ending hunger by women, reduce food insecurity with nutrition sensitive agriculture, improve nutrition and food safety in families while focusing on the first 1000 days of life.
She also emphasized the key importance of improving maternal health and fetal growth, as well as providing sustainable support for child nutrition and growth.
“To break the cycle of malnutrition, women must be at the centre of development and governance while Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) need women to break the cycle of malnutrition at the community level.”
Olayiwola said the reasons for women empowerment in any given society include:
- Women lead and participate in decision-making at all levels of life
- When women are economically empowered, it advances the health, education and economic security of their family
- Women and girls live a life free from violence
- Women empowerment benefits the nation, especially in nutritional status of all Nigerians
- Poverty reduction, improved national economic performance and nutrition
- Peace and security and humanitarian action actions are shaped by women’s leadership and participation
- More than 350, 000 women die from preventive complications related to pregnancy and childbirth each year (UN, 2010)
She lamented the dominance of men in the decision-making process in Nigeria to the detriment of women.
“Empowerment of women is necessary where there is inequality in terms of access to resources. This is because power has been gendered in Nigeria. In Nigeria, there is over-concentration of power in the hands of men. Thus, men have greater access to resources of the country.”
The keynote speaker was emphatic that empowering women will generate positive result for nations and families in terms of economic situation and poverty reduction given that female-headed households on average have lower poverty, higher education, higher income; constitutes 16 percent of total households and more importantly, women spend more time on domestic tasks in rural and urban areas than men.
She listed some of the household tasks performed by women as complementary food preparation, education support, provision of water, breastfeeding, shopping, income generation by working women and taking care of family health.
Olayiwola said the way forward for women is to break the inter-generational cycle of growth failure with nutrition which will effectively address the challenges of:
- Child Growth Failure
- Early Pregnancy
- Small Adult Women
- Low Birth Weight Baby
- Low Weight and Height in Teens
According to her, the Call for Action to achieve women empowerment should include development communication by appropriate messages and packages to facilitate behavioural change at individual level, household level and community levels (woman to woman training).
This would be in addition to implementation of policies that address improved nutrition knowledge, attitude and practice which must involve women while academics are to provide accurate information required to create awareness and develop appropriate intervention programmes for women.
The major areas of women empowerment include health, nutrition, household economy, education