Background on gender and nutrition

Nutrition and gender are inextricably linked. Women and girls suffer disproportionately from poor nutrition and are subject to social, cultural and political norms of how food is produced, accessed and consumed and how nutrition services are provided and used.

Gender issues affect nutrition outcomes in many ways. The most recent literature review1 2 on the correlation between women’s empowerment and child nutrition outcomes describes these as being strongly related.

Energy and nutrient requirements are influenced both by sex and biology while nutrient uptakes might be influenced by gender roles and responsibilities. For instance, women and girls often eat last and least (due to gendered norms), which restricts their ability to achieve their potential and there are also more likely to be affected by hunger. In fact, out of the 690 million people in the world who are suffering from hunger, 60% are girls or women3. The gender gap in food insecurity4 widened even further in 2021, driven largely by LAC and Asia. In 2021, 31.9% of women in the world being moderately or severely food insecure compared to 27.6% of men.

Gender inequality is thus both a cause and a consequence of malnutrition, which can trap women and girls in a multigenerational cycle of poverty and unmet potential, restricting livelihoods, education, and growth opportunities, and limiting access to and control over the resources they need to meet their nutritional needs.

According to the 2022 Global Gender Gap report, gender parity is not recovering. It is estimated that another 132 years are needed to close the global gender gap5. As crises are compounding in addition to the reverses experienced during COVID-19, women’s workforce outcomes are suffering and the risk of global gender parity backsliding further intensifies. Gender-sensitive recovery strategies will be critical in making up ground lost that has been lost with the recent global crises.

One powerful indication of a systematic gender bias is the gender data gap. Few surveys, research and data analysis see, count and value women and girls. National and sub-national level statistics are not sufficiently nuanced and disaggregated to capture gender disparities. This could be solved, in part, by correcting gender biases in research, data collection and analysis methodologies: better survey design, appropriate use of terminology, development and inclusion of specific gender indicators to measure advances in gender equity, and analysing and communicating data from a gender viewpoint might contribute to more equitable policies.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasises the need for structural transformation to address not just the symptoms but the root causes of economic, social, political and environmental problems and inequities. The SDG 5 is a crosscutting goal and will affect to all aspects of the development.

1 Santoso, M. V., R. B. Kerr, J. Hoddinott, P. Garigipati, S. Olmos and S. L. Young (2019). "Role of Women’s Empowerment in Child Nutrition Outcomes: A Systematic Review." Adv Nutr 10(6): 1138-1151.

2 https://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/cfs/Docs1920/Gender/GEWE_Scoping_Paper-FINAL040ct.pdf

3 Women are Hungrier - World Food Program USA (wfpusa.org)

4 https://www.fao.org/3/cc0639en/cc0639en.pdf

5 https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GGGR_2022.pdf