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Women and Children’s Health: PMNCH Knowledge Summary 18 on nutrition

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Gender inequality is linked to higher rates of child mortality and malnutrition. Women often have less education, lower economic status, and limited decision-making at household and community levels, all of which contributes to poorer nutrition. Women’s status often determines maternal and child feeding practices as well as how food is consumed and distributed within the household. It is critical that gender roles and inequalities are taken into account when formulating and implementing programmes and policies to improve nutrition among pregnant and lactating women and children younger than two. Using tools such as gender analysis, gender sensitive strategies and activities and gender audits will make programmes aimed at improving nutrition, agriculture and health more effective. The use of participatory gender planning and gender and nutrition-sensitive indicators will also contribute to more equitable results. Efforts to improve women’s nutrition will be more effective if conducted in conjunction with programmes aiming at improving women’s status and at reducing gender inequalities. Practical actions suggested to improve nutritional outcomes include improving knowledge of locally available nutrient-rich foods and encouraging its consumption by women and children, and taking steps to enable women to exercise control over income and resources. Suggested actions at community level include combining agriculture and nutrition programmes to help reduce gender disparities in household food consumption and distribution, and equipping women and men to identify the sociocultural reasons behind specific childcare and feeding practices.

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