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Expo Milano event highlights the key role adolescent girls have in breaking the cycle of malnutrition

  |   SUN Civil Society Network, SUN Lead Group and Secretariat
© SUN Movement Secretariat / Ounfannat Edui

© SUN Movement Secretariat / Ounfannat Edui

On 3 July 2015, Save the Children held the event “Starting from girls: they are the source to trigger a change!” at Expo Milano as part of the WE-Women for Expo program. The event highlighted the key role of adolescent girls in low and middle income countries in breaking the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition. The event called for more self-confidence and rights for the 1.2 billion adolescents in the world, half of whom are girls, as a contribution to a better and more sustainable future.

“This this is a gigantic initiative focused on developing solutions for some of the world’s most important problems. Today I received some marvelous news from a colleague: yesterday the UN approved a resolution prohibiting child marriage. An encouragement to us, to continue to work for more girls going to school… and staying there until they finish.” – Marta Dassù-Executive President WE – Women for EXPO

The event launched dialogue among different actors around the current issues related to policy strategies and initiatives which see adolescent girls involved, in the specific framework of agriculture, food and nutrition security context and hence, the potential benefits of an increased investment in the role of adolescent girls.

Background provided by Save the Children shared that young adolescent girls contribute to the family work in the agriculture sector and are engaged in wage labour such as cash-crop production and livestock. Moreover, they are often marginalized with less access to productive assets such as land or services (finance and extension). Their vulnerability is also due to various other factors which comprehend: early pregnancies, early marriages and lack of access to basic and rightful education. Babies born from young adolescent mothers are also more likely to die or be born with nutritional deficits compared to children born by more developed women. The infants who survive have a greater risk of growing up to be stunted mothers or fathers themselves.

In order to prevent malnutrition being passed to the next generation adolescent girls and their communities must be both supported for improved nutrition and to delay the issue of early marriage and unwanted pregnancies. Although the role of girls is key within the household system, there is a “girl gap” within the development agenda which has bypassed adolescent girls by grouping them with women or children, but not as a category of their own. This is also the reason why there is a lack of an adequate assessment of adolescents in the majority of developing countries.

“The problem of malnutrition can easily be resolved if women are more involved. If mothers are taught more about balanced diet, they will be able to raise stronger children. Let’s have programmes that target adolescent girls, categorize them as a group of their own- girls are a powerhouse of talent, creativity and potential” – Rose Sakala, Student from Malawi

There is a need to invest in adolescent girls and their key role in agriculture, food and nutrition security. Their role needs to be recognized within a nutrition security perspective which includes not only availability and access to adequate food that fully satisfies the nutritional needs, but also utilization. Girls can be also involved more directly within the agricultural value chains through the small-holder farmers and/or in the larger privately owned farms at the local and national level. They must be also empowered by facilitating access to health information and services (including for sexual and reproductive health), the opportunity to access to specific trainings, a chance for social participation and leadership, and links to formal/non-formal education and to livelihoods. All of these aspects must be also in line with child protection policies.

“Creating an alliance to counter malnutrition is extremely important, but men too must be involved in this process” Khalida Brohi, Founder and executive director of the Sughar Empowerment Society

Read more of the background provided by Save the Children: Background

Read more about the event Morning Session | Afternoon Session

Save the Children: Adolescent Nutrition Report

In March 2015, Save the Children published a report focusing on Policy and Programming in SUN Countries for adolescent nutrition. The report aims to help inform other countries so that they can strengthen their own relevant policies and programmes for adolescent nutrition.

Learn more: Save the Children: Adolescent Nutrition Report

The “Girl Declaration”

The Girl Declaration is a call to action to put girls at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda. Through a series of consultations, 508 girls living in poverty together with 25 of the world’s leading development organisations created the Girl Declaration. It contains recommended guiding principles, goals and targets and it is our tool to stop poverty before it starts.

Support the declaration: The Girl Effect

WE-Women for Expo

The WE-Women program is organised in collaboration with Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Arnoldo and Alberto Mondadori Foundation.  WE-Women for Expo addresses nutrition and sustainability and it does so, for the first time, by placing female culture at the heart of a Universal Exposition.

Learn more about WE-Women for Expo at Expo Milano.

Save the Children at Expo Milano

Save the Children is present at EXPO with a Save the Children Village made of wood and recycled materials, with outdoor spaces comprising cultivated land and a garden. Inside the Village, visitors to Expo Milan 2015 can explore the importance of nutrition and its impact on the lives and health of children and mothers in the world, particularly in developing countries.

Learn more about Expo Milano

Adolescent Nutrition at The World Health Organization

Nutrition interventions targeting adolescent girls are important in several ways. First, as a vulnerable group, adolescent girls are at risk of malnutrition, particularly micronutrient deficiencies. Addressing their nutrient needs supports their health and well-being. Second, ensuring an adolescent girl is getting the nutrients she needs means that if she becomes pregnant, she and her child are likely to be healthier. That’s why WFP is placing a high priority on the nutrition of adolescent girls.

Download the 2014 publication WFP and Nutrition – Adolescent Girls

Adolescent Nutrition article by the President of Micronutrient Initiative

Joel Spicer, President of the Micronutrient Initiative wrote the article Anaemia epidemic: we are neglecting adolescent girls’ nutition for The Guardian global development professional’s network. In the article, he recognizes that there is a blind spot in knowledge about the nutritional status of adolescent girls. He says “If we want to stop the cycle of vertical transmission of malnutrition from mother to child, we must invest in girls during their adolescence as well.”

Read the November 2014 article at The Guardian

Guardian Article | 15 ways to stop neglecting adolescent girls’ nutrition

A live Q&A session with an expert panel held on 11 June 2015 by The Guardian presented the basis for the development of “15 ways to stop neglecting adolescent girl’s nutrition”.

See the list at The Guardian




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