Putting gender on the table: Integrating gender and nutrition

By Myriam Hebabi and Alina Meyer

Alina leading workshop

Alina leading participants in gender equality issues in the SUN Focal Points workshop.

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. The TAN project is funded with UK aid from the UK government. 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 

Alina Meyer

Alina Meyer

Alina is a gender consultant working with the Technical Assistance for Nutrition (TAN) team at Nutrition International. Alina is an experienced gender, social inclusion and human rights specialist who has worked as a senior policy and program advisor, manager, and evaluator. She has extensive experience working with and for NGOs, governments, bilateral and multilateral donors, including Global Affairs Canada, Girl Effect, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, DFID, UNESCO and more. Alina has also had significant engagement with the international and UN human rights machinery. She has worked in evaluation, community consultations, research, policy analysis, project appraisal, design and management, project financing, capacity building, workshop facilitation and training. Alina also has expertise in social analysis, adolescent girls, child rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights, violence against women and girls, women’s economic empowerment, and disability rights. Alina holds a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University, a Master of Science in Human Rights from The London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Master of Science in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford.

Myriam Hebabi

Myriam Hebabi

Myriam is the Project Manager - Strategy for the Technical Assistance for Nutrition (TAN) Project  at Nutrition International. Myriam is an experienced analyst, strategist, communicator and project manager with keen interest in the areas of gender equality, capacity strengthening and knowledge translation. She has experience working with and/or for governments, global institutions, private sector, international and local NGOs, in Canada, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Prior to Nutrition International, Myriam worked with Universalia, Fédération de la jeuness franco-ontarienne, and the Embassy of Canada to Jordan and Iraq. Myriam holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Development and Globalization and a Master of Arts in in Public and International Affairs from the University of Ottawa.