Females in India are considered the backbone of the family. In India, they make about 48% of the country’s population. They are more strong and powerful when it comes to making decisions for the household. Now with modernisation, females play a pivotal role when it comes to contributing to the economy and sustainability. However, there have been observed issues related to female nutrition. So, what are these issues and how and why does this happen. Does this have any correlation with education, is it related to child malnourishment, or both?
The strength of women in the workforce cannot be denied. However, with the tremendous responsibilities falling on the shoulders of Indian women, it has led to them neglecting a nutritious diet. This can be due to multiple reasons. They also change depending on whether you take rural or urban working women. In an urban setting, this can be due to less time to cook at home and therefore resorting to eating outside. In rural areas, the lack of nutrition can be due to a lack of access to quality food.
Roughly 25% of women of reproductive age are undernourished. They have an average BMI (Body Mass Index) less than 18.5 kg/m. This is concerning because if a mother is undernourished, the chances are that she will give birth to an undernourished baby.
Mother Education and Children Malnourishment
As per a UNICEF Report, 69% of children die due to malnourishment below the age of five. Almost every 2nd child is affected by some form of malnourishment. The worst part is that only 42% of children age 6 to 23 months can get fed at an appropriate time and frequency. Many researchers have claimed that if women have higher education, then children born are often not undernourished. For developing countries like India, a major factor for children malnourishment is the lack of a diverse range of food provided by the mother, the gap between two children and poverty. In many poverty-stricken households, there is a lack of education, awareness, and access to nutrition and nutritional food. Currently, in India, nearly 22% of the population lives below the poverty line and about 13 million children below the age of 13 have never been to school. The good news is that the government has started to introduce reforms to tackle these issues.
Progress in Female Nutrition and Children Malnourishment
If we compare data from 2005 –2006 and 2015-16, there has been a decline overall stunting percentage of children 1from 48 to 38.4 and 42.5 to 35.8 underweight children. This shows that there has been an improvement but not at the desired speed.
Currently, the government is putting a lot of effort in this area. POSHAN Abhiyan (Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition) is a program launched by the Government of India on International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018 to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. The main target of this program is to reduce stunting for children between ages 0 to 6 years from 38.4 to 25 % by 2022. It also aims to reduce the level of under-nutrition, anemia, and low birth weight in children. Much of the focus has been on adolescent girls, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. Also, POSHAN Abhiyan has seen an increase in budget allocation in the last three years – from Rs. 950.00 crore in 2017-18 to Rs. 3400.00 crore for the financial year 2019-20.
POSHAN Abhiyan or National Nutrition mission has been working well and even Anemia Mukt Bharat program has been recognised as one of the best programs by governments across the world to address malnourishment.2
However, a lot of problems still exist. We are still a long way from making India undernourishment free. The biggest challenge has been trying to expand education and bring awareness to regions where education levels are typically low. However, with the right policies and strategies, this can be achieved. Apart from government intervention, this critical issue can be handled much better if more businesses can invest in this sector through corporate social responsibility or CSR. To achieve this, public-private partnership or PPP between NGOs, government, institutions, and businesses, will play a major role in tackling this issue.
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