Nutrition and Women’s Empowerment

(Nabeela Waheed, Islamabad)

Good nutrition is not only a concern for the health and development of an individual but also has major implications for the health and productivity for an entire country. Nutritional status and the empowerment of women have massive implications on the physical and mental development of their children. Benefits of nutritional improvements and social empowerment of women, the margin, investments in women’s human capital, at least in rural communities and developing nations, have greater positive implications in human capital development than do investments in men’s. Because children are the future human capital resource of a country, it is vital to more effectively invest in and promote the development of those intellectual and physical resources. Research shows that women—as mothers and primary caretakers—are more likely to influence health and nutrition outcomes of their children and their families as a whole when they will economically empowered they can focus and fixed resources for individuals wellbeing more adaptably.

In the world many interventions had been completed with the aim to alleviate poverty and improve investments in human capital consider women’s empowerment as a key pathway and these interventions often target women as their main beneficiaries.

Studies shows that we can measure women’s empowerment in various extents and combinations. Malhotra, Schuler, and Boender (2002) lay out the various dimensions along which women can be empowered (economic, sociocultural, familial and interpersonal, legal, political, and psychological) and also the different levels at which empowerment can occur: the household and community, as well as national, regional, and global.

Women’s empowerment is considered crucial for improving nutrition outcomes. Since women are often primary caregivers, they can influence their children’s nutrition indirectly through their own nutritional status as well as directly through childcare practices (Bhagowalia et al. 2012; Smith et al. 2003a). Several studies (using direct and indirect measures of female empowerment) have demonstrated the important associations between women’s empowerment dimensions and their own nutrition as well as that of their children for example, in Pakistan, women’s intrahousehold status (measured by age at first marriage, percentage age difference between woman and spouse, difference between woman’s and spouse’s years of education, woman’s income, and unearned income from remittances) was positively associated with food security among their children (Guha-Khasnobis and Hazarika 2006).

It is necessary for all of us to understand the concept of women’s empowerment and its link between women’s empowerment and nutrition .All policy makers and humanitarian workers should designed their interventions to ensure women empowerment to target women as the primary beneficiaries, focusing on cash transfer (CT) programs, agricultural interventions, microfinance programs and etc so that we can fight with malnutrition because as Global Nutrition Report in Pakistan only 43-48% children under five are growing healthy.

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