Experts say women empowerment key to stalling malnutrition in Nigeria

Experts say women empowerment key to stalling malnutrition in Nigeria
September 14 09:38 2020 Print This Article

By Benjamin Omoike

Some experts in the nutrition and medical sectors, have posited that women empowerment is not only necessary, but is the way forward, if the nation intends to tackle malnutrition headlong.

Speaking at a Protein Challenge Webinar organised by Mediacraft Associates in Lagos, with the theme: ‘Empowering Women to Break the Cycle of Malnutrition in Nigeria’, they described Nigeria’s malnutrition situation as a pandemic, which required government’s effort, as well as private sector participation, to mitigate.

This move, they say, has been identified as one of the major keys to ending malnutrition in Nigeria.

At the Webinar, stakeholders noted that in the country and globally, peace, security and humanitarian action, were shaped by women’s leadership and participation.

Delivering her keynote address, Ibiyemi Olayiwola, Professor of Human Nutrition at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, said that when women are economically empowered, it leads to the advancement of the health, education and economic security of their families. 

She said: “Women are fundamental to development. In Nigeria, there is overconcentration of power in the hands of men, including greater access to the resources of the country. For this reason, women are left with poor decision-making powers in their homes. Women empowerment benefits the nation, especially in terms of the nutritional status of all Nigerians. Women empowerment will reduce poverty, improve national economic performance and nutrition.” 

Professor Olayiwola also revealed that female-headed households (which constitute about 16 per cent of total households in Nigeria), usually have lower poverty levels, higher education and higher income.

One of the panelists, Dr. Adepeju Adeniran, a clinical physician and public health expert, stated that protein malnutrition can be expensive to both individuals and society. She revealed that protein-energy malnutrition in children, has been linked to a higher risk of non-communicable diseases in adulthood, loss of direct and indirect income, acute illnesses and failure to reach absolute growth potential.

Adeniran noted that, because women are the domestic implementers in the homes, the choices they make determine the nutrition status of their families.

She said: “The choices they make are determined by literacy, income and available choices, adding up to ‘Bargain shopping’, which is getting the most value for household feeding.” 

Mrs. Josephine Mensah Chukwunweike, a nutritionist, who was also a panelist, encouraged women to work and obtain money to support their families. She urged women to be more adventurous in preparing family meals.

She said: “It is important to look beyond beans, meat and fish, as the only proteins available in Nigeria. Many of our whole grains and legumes are packed with proteins – soybeans, groundnuts, wara (local cheese), egusi (pumpkin seeds), okpa (steamed Bambara nut pudding), ukwa (African breadfruit porridge), etc. Also, women must learn to prepare their food in such a way that they are sure about the hygienic conditions.”

She urged women to eat adequately and breastfeed exclusively, noting that healthy complementary foods should be introduced in the right proportion to children, after exclusive breastfeeding.

The webinar was moderated by Mrs. Lilian Ekong, a professional cuisine chef and CEO, Lily’s Chops.

About Protein Challenge:
Protein Challenge is a media campaign designed to create awareness about the prevalence and dimensions of the challenge of Protein Deficiency in Nigeria, and to galvanise all relevant stakeholders to collaborate in providing solutions to the problem, so that Nigerians can live healthier and more productive lives. It is a protein pull media campaign supported by the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and other partners.

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