By Reginald Onabu
Life is about balance. There is no area where balance is not required. In politics, business and relationship, balance makes for stability and sustainability.
Balance is equally an important ingredient for nutrition. Nutrition is defined as the process of taking in food and using it for growth, metabolism, and repair. Food is the fuel the body needs, not just to satisfy hunger, but to function properly and live healthy, productive lives.
Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. In many homes, women play a significant part in choosing what the household eats, on a daily basis.
Women largely control meal choices. They have a crucial role to play in nurturing and caring for children, including their nutrition and general well-being. They are the vanguard against the menace of malnutrition.
Malnutrition is a condition that results from eating a diet in which one or more nutrients are either not enough, or are too much in a diet.
Malnutrition casts a long shadow. Its consequences flow throughout the cycle of life and cascade down generations, affecting all and sundry in communities and households— especially children, adolescent girls and women.
To remedy this issue, women, who are key influencers in nutrition, must be empowered and educated to tackle malnutrition at its root.
The recent Protein Challenge Webinar Series 3 themed: “Empowering women to break the cycle of malnutrition in Nigeria” supported this position. The session highlighted different solutions to the scourge of malnutrition and how women are the central pillars of nutritional progress.
Delivering the keynote address at the webinar, Ibiyemi Olayiwola, Professor of Human Nutrition in the Nutrition and Dietetics Department, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, stated that women are the key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of growth failures, by providing adequate nutrition for themselves, their families and their communities.
According to her, “Women are the keys to nutritional progress. Think of it this way: if a mother engages in exclusive breastfeeding for the first 1000 days, that woman has already set her child on a path to a healthy lifestyle.”
Prof Olayiwola explained that “Women also feed babies throughout childhood, and the choice of meals is up to the mothers, not the child. If a population of children are fed a balanced diet, they will grow into healthy, active youths, and soon, into healthy productive adults.”
Dr Adepeju Adeniran, a clinical physician and public health expert, argued that “factors like maternal literacy, access to health information services and the level of income all contribute to the total health of individuals. Women influence their homes by dictating the food items that are purchased, acquired and consumed.”
Undoubtedly, women play a pivotal role in improving nutrition. Good nutrition is the bedrock of human health because before birth and throughout infancy, good nutrition allows the brain to grow and function optimally, without impairment.
The role of the woman is diverse; women cater to children and other members of society.
Children are the leaders of tomorrow and for young children, good nutritional status prevents infant deaths and equips the body to grow and develop to its full potential.
The task of empowering women should not be left to women alone. The government must be involved, and actively so. Of course, non-governmental organisations and the civil society bodies must also pitch in.
If the goal is to win the fight against malnutrition, empowering women must be on the front burner. And it should cover a broad range of things. For instance, providing nutrition education, subsidizing the cost of nutrient-rich food sources, particularly across rural areas, so as ensure access to healthy food crops at affordable rates, thus reducing the level malnutrition.
Undoubtedly, a reduction in the incidence of malnutrition will positively impact households, communities, and the nation at large.
Better-nourished mothers will, naturally, give birth to better-nourished children and adults who embrace good nutrition are likelier to be productive and earn higher wages.
Women are clearly indispensable in the fight against malnutrition. It is time to empower them to take their place in this regard.