Improvements in nutrition for all will not be possible without addressing gender issues and women’s empowerment.

Women and adolescent girls are at greater risk of malnutrition due to the increased nutritional needs associated with menstruation, pregnancy, and lactation. This is reflected in the high rates of anemia which affects 33 percent of women of reproductive age globally (about 613 million women). Women are also more exposed to risk factors for malnutrition such as HIV/AIDS, food insecurity and poverty. Finally, the prevalence of obesity is higher among women (15 percent) than men (11 percent).

The nutritional status of women and girls has major implications on the well-being and nutrition of all family members. For example, a women’s nutritional status has a direct impact on their children’s: an undernourished pregnant mother is more likely to give birth to a low-birth weight child who is then at greater risk of malnutrition during childhood and in later life. And the children of obese women are more likely to become obese and suffer from diabetes. This is called the “inter-generational cycle of malnutrition”. Furthermore, a mother weakened by malnutrition is also less able to feed and care for infants, young children and the family, thereby affecting their well-being.

The determinants of malnutrition are often intrinsically related to gender dynamics in households and communities. Improving gender dynamics is thus a necessity to prevent malnutrition. Likewise, investments in multi-sectoral programmes and policies that address the root causes of malnutrition are an opportunity to advance women’s empowerment.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Agreed Conclusions of the 62nd Session of the CSW (March 2018) strongly reaffirmed rural women and girls’ right to food and nutrition while recognizing their crucial contributions to local and national economies and to the achievement of food security and improved nutrition, in particular in poor and vulnerable households (UN CSW 2018).

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