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The Importance of Women’s Status for Child Nutrition in Developing Countries

Publisher: International Food Policy Research Institute

Malnutrition affects one out of every three preschool-age children living in developing countries. This disturbing, yet preventable, state of affairs causes untold suffering and, given its wide scale, presents a major obstacle to the development process. Volumes have been written about the causes of child malnutrition and the means of reducing it. But the role of women’s social status in determining their children’s nutritional health has gone largely unnoticed until recently. This study explores the relationship between women’s status and children’s nutrition in three developing regions: South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The study defines women’s status as women’s power relative to men. Women with low status tend to have weaker control over household resources, tighter time constraints, less access to information and health services, poorer mental health, and lower self-esteem. These factors are thought to be closely tied to women’s own nutritional status and the quality of care they receive, and, in turn, to children’s birth weights and the quality of care they receive. The study sets out to answer three main questions: First, is women’s status an important determinant of child nutritional status in the three study regions? Second, if so, what are the pathways through which it operates? And finally, why is South Asia’s child malnutrition rate so much higher than Sub-Saharan Africa’s? To answer these questions, this report brings together Demographic and Health Survey data on 117,242 children under three years of age from 36 developing countries. It uses two measures of women’s status: women’s decisionmaking power relative to that of their male partners and the degree of equality between women and men in their communities

Author(s): Reynaldo Martorell, Lawrence Haddad, Aida Ndiaye, Usha Ramakrishnan, LIsa Smith | Views(337) | Download (296)

  
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