Gender Issues in Nutrition and Food  



Valentina Peveri, American University of Rom, Italy
Alejandra Safa Barraza, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Advancing gender equality and empowerment of women in food systems
Women play an important role in Food Systems as producers, wage-workers, processors, traders, entrepreneurs, and consumers. However, they face substantial and systemic gender-related barriers. The results of decades of development have shown that the cross-cutting social dimension of sustainability cannot be dissociated from the economic and environmental considerations for ensuring durable and inclusive success. Achieving equitable and sustainable food systems demands thus that the needs, priorities and challenges of men and women of different age, ethnicity and socio-economic status, including indigenous people, are considered throughout processes of production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal (loss or waste) of food products. This literature review examines existing guidelines and tools for gender equality and empowerment of women in food systems, highlighting best practices and ongoing collective efforts advocating for gender transformative approaches in food systems. Based on the results of the review, the paper then proposes a set of components and main steps of a Food Systems approach for gender equality and women’s empowerment and delineates a series of conditions for successful food systems transformation processes. The results emerging from this literature review will have important implications for policy actors and other relevant stakeholders designing more inclusive and gender transformative Food Systems policies, and will be particularly pertinent for the deliberations and national dialogues surrounding the UN Food Systems Summit.


Padmaja Ravula, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
Sudha Narayanan, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Understanding the dynamics of women empowerment and nutritional empowerment of rural women and their families in Maharashtra, India
This paper aims to measure the nutritional empowerment of individuals and the nature of inequalities thereof using a recently developed metric called the Women’s Empowerment in Nutrition Index (WENI). The 33 indicator WENI spans 7 domain-dimensions of knowledge, agency and resources across food, health and institutions. We use primary survey data for 867 individuals from 4 villages of Maharashtra, India, including WENI woman (mother of child below 5 years of age), a subsample of their male spouses, mother-in-law of the WENI women. The survey also covers a group of older woman (above the age of 65) from other households. Overall, only 37.21% of the individuals interviewed are nutritionally empowered. 72% of the WENI spouses were empowered compared to only 35% of the WENI women who were empowered suggesting gender inequalities in nutritional empowerment. The least empowered were the elderly women (8%), highlighting heterogeneity among women Within the 188 households for which we have data on both spouses, in 41% of these, the woman is nutritionally disempowered whereas the male spouse is not. Not only is there a substantial gap in the WENI scores between spouses within the same household, it is apparent that these gaps are actually higher for wealthier households. Our analysis of spousal inequalities in nutritional empowerment demonstrates the utility of a measure such as WENI in conducting diagnostic analysis of gender parity within households and across communities. Such analysis helps identify appropriate levels at which different policies need to be targeting to empower women and reduce gender inequalities.


Ifeoma Quinette Anugwa, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nigeria

Gender dimensions in perceived vulnerability to the effects of climate change on household food security among farming households in Southeast Nigeria
Farming livelihoods in small-scale agriculture are imbued by gendered divisions of rights and responsibilities expressed in power asymmetries in access to land, labour, and leisure time. This social differentiation may imply varied vulnerability and capacity to adapt to climate change. Aiming at a more nuanced gender analysis, this study sought to investigate gender dimensions in perceived vulnerability to the effects of climate change on household food security among farming households with a view to unpacking evidence and lessons for policy makers on the need to integrate gender perspectives on climate change adaptation actions. The study was conducted in the Southeast region of Nigeria. Collective and bargaining approaches were used in collecting individual- and intra household level data of 120 pairs of spouses. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used in analyzing the data. Results of the study showed that more husbands (85.3%) than their wives were aware of climate change. The majority (90.0%) of women and men (79.2%) were classified as food insecure within their households. Overall, slightly more women than their husbands indicated that they were vulnerable to the effects of climate change on food availability, accessibility, and utilization of food supplies. There were observed gender differences in the coping strategies employed by men and women in the areas of growing orchards and home gardening. It is recommended that government, international agencies and NGOs are commit to a gender-integrated approach, which makes men and women’s concerns an integral dimension in the design, implementation, and evaluation of climate change adaptation programs.


Mousumi Bhattacharjee, National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi, and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Suresh C. Babu, IFPRI

Do land size, crop, and home garden diversity improve female children’s nutritional status? Pilot evidence from a village of West Bengal
There is limited evidence of agriculture to nutrition pathways focussing on production and consumption diversity at the household level, especially for children (Kumar et al., 2015). Our objectives are to understand the: (i) association between household land size holding and child dietary diversity/nutritional status; and (ii) association between crop/ home garden diversity and child dietary diversity/nutritional status. Fifty households were surveyed in the village of Taldi (Block Magrahat-II) in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal. Five questionnaires were administered per household: Community Level General, Community Level Agriculture, Household Socio Demographic, Household (Agriculture), and Household (Nutrition). We adopted a stratified random sampling strategy to identify agricultural households with kids less than five years of age. Of the total number of children, 36 percent were female, and 64 percent were male. Almost 27% are moderately underweight and stunted, and 22% severely underweight and stunted. Our main findings are, Median child food diversity is more than ten across all land size holdings; Female underweight children are more in number and have poor dietary diversity - 61% of female children are stunted and underweight; Child food diversity is low across low crop/home garden diversity; Low dietary diversity and poor quality of nutritious food can explain the poor nutritional status of children in this village. The existing literature substantiates our findings. Home gardening is an overlooked strategy. It should be emphasized to improve diet quality, especially for female children.


Gianna Bonis-Profumo, Charles Darwin University, Australia

Gender relations on livestock production and animal-source food acquisition and consumption among smallholders in rural Timor-Leste: A mixed-methods exploration
Among smallholders, gender relations shape how agricultural products are produced, and how foods are acquired and consumed, which impacts on food security and nutrition. In Timor-Leste, most rural households own multiple livestock species, yet animal-source foods (ASF) intake is low and malnutrition high. This study explores how gender relations inform livestock production, and ASF acquisition and consumption in four Timorese villages in Baucau and Viqueque districts. We examined women’s empowerment within the relational sphere of gender relations and applied a qualitative-dominant mixed-methods design. Selected data from the Abbreviated Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (n=161 women, n=106 men) and 24-hr ASF recalls (n=161 mother-child pairs), were complemented with 33 semi-structured interviews, mostly with women and/or their husbands, analyzed through the Gender Relations Framework. We found that most women and men reported joint livestock ownership and joint decisions on production and income. However, interviews revealed that for many women, joint decision making meant requiring their husband’s consent, without which they would not proceed with selling livestock or purchasing ASF. Women’s unequal bargaining position was influenced by social norms on the gendered division of labor, and by men’s role and framing as income generators. In a setting where rice security was a priority concern, ASF were considered not essential and unaffordable. Mixed-methods seem useful, and arguably necessary, to understand the contextual significance of decision-making processes. Nutrition-sensitive programmes could include men in their design as important actors in financial decisions that might affect dietary composition.