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Putting gender on the table: integrating gender and nutrition

  |   SUN Civil Society Network

*Blog written by Myriam Hebabi and Alina Meyer originally published by Nutrition International


Nutrition International, through the Technical Assistance for Nutrition (TAN) project, with support from gender consultant Alina Meyer, recently helped integrate gender equality into the Functional Capacity-Building Workshop for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Focal Points and Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) or agriculture Focal Points held in Stockholm from June 9-11, 2019. Here, Myriam Hebabi, Project Manager for NI TAN, and gender consultant Alina Meyer share their reflections from the workshop.

In concert with the facilitation team (Namukolo Covic from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Johann Jerling from the Africa Nutrition Leadership Programme, Barbara Rehbinder and others from the SUN Movement Secretariat, and, from Maximising the Quality of Scaling Up Nutrition Plus (MQSUN+), Jane Keylock and Monica Kothari), we set out to identify opportunities for mainstreaming gender equality into most sessions of the Stockholm Functional Capacity-Building Workshop, in addition to offering a gender-specific introductory session. This came in response to feedback received from the first workshop in this series held in Bangkok in November 2018, and the collective consensus that gender equality should be addressed more comprehensively throughout the event.

By bringing gender considerations into the workshop we were able to demonstrate the linkages between the discussions around leadership and gender, position gender into the focal points’ personal leadership development journeys, as well as encourage participants to think about the links between gender and nutrition in their technical roles and unique country contexts.

Through an introductory session on gender equality, we endeavoured to clarify concepts, and respond to common misconceptions. One key misconception that came through discussions is that addressing gender equality through nutrition programming is perceived to equate targeting women and girls – however, it goes beyond that. Ensuring women are given opportunities to contribute can serve to improve programming and policies, and does not mean that men lose out. It is about rectifying power imbalances and lack of opportunity and voice for women.

After facilitating a gender equality session we asked participants to write (anonymously) on sticky notes any concerns, challenges, questions they had in relation to gender and nutrition. We kept the resulting wall of sticky notes up throughout the training so that all could see what concerns or questions had been raised. Later in the training we asked participants to propose solutions they see to tackling some of these challenges.

Throughout the workshop we discussed social norms around gender and found that every culture represented in the room (of participants and facilitators) has social norms, cultural taboos and accepted behaviours regarding women, and food consumption norms and taboos, especially for pregnant or menstruating women. There were also dynamics in many cultures that meant the men or boys of a household were served first, and served the more nutritious and better foods.

There were some thought provoking connections made—for example in the insertion of gender to a mind mapping exercise that examined food systems, multi-sectoral collaboration and technical assistance. These included social norms relating to diet and meals, as well as gender-based violence and nutrition, and the feminization of agriculture, just to name a few.

There were also interesting discussions on unconscious bias, how we define and envision a leader (often both men and women initially think of a man), how women’s advancement in the workplace has affected both men and women in differing ways, and how this in some cases has affected power dynamics and caused tensions and resentment in the workplace.

Though we noted that many of the problems raised were intractable and required long term investments and complex solutions, the discussions were a reminder to the participants that they themselves can be resources and can contribute to the solutions and new ways of working to solve some of the challenges around gender in the workplace and gender and nutrition.

Nutrition International believes that good nutrition and gender equality are mutually reinforcing; improving nutrition is critical to achieving gender equality, and in turn improving gender equality leads to improved nutrition. Underpinning all of our work is a focus on gender equality, bringing a gender lens directly into our projects, programs and partnerships.
For more resources on the links between gender equality and nutrition see the resources below:

Nutrition International Gender Equality and Nutrition 
SUN Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls 

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