Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Parvez Babul Bangladesh

Poverty, hunger and malnutrition of women and children

Experts have recognized that most of the poor of this world are women. We know that healthy and happy women make their families happy. But if women suffer from poverty, hunger and malnutrition — how will they make their families happy? Rather those women are treated as the burden of families. Those malnourished women give birth of low-weight children who also suffer from malnutrition. As a result, both the mothers and children have to fight for living.

Those malnourished, sick women are unable to perform all the household jobs; and cannot do extra jobs outside of their households. As they are poor, so they cannot arrange nutritious food, and do not get necessary treatment. As a result, want of food is the companion of daily lives of those women. It causes family feud as a regular basis. They cannot take care of their beloved children properly. Day by day the bad luck of those women and children turns into worst. The husbands are reluctant to keep their wives, some divorce, and some demand extra money as dowry. Those women cannot provide dowry their families break up. Even they cannot take legal action against their husbands, because the poverty makes them helpless to do so! Then the abandoned women and children take shelter in the streets.

These are the bitter reality of the poor, hungry, malnourished women and children of Bangladesh as well as the poor countries in South Asia. In fact, poverty, hunger, food insecurity, illiteracy, disempowerment, lack of health and nutrition education, less participation in decision- making, negative impact of climate change, early marriage, gender inequality and inequity, familial and social taboos attack those women so greatly like octopus that they cannot exit from these common vicious cycle.

To prevent these problems and to solve the existing unacceptable but preventable situation, the governments, donors, NGOs, civil society organisations, women and children rights activists, development partners, development workers, international and national forums need to take holistic approaches. Long term plan of activities is a must. Certainly more research on these issues is the need and demand of the time. The findings of research/ studies should be directed to promote capacity-building and technology transfer to the public and private sectors.

IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) pointed out in its Global Hunger Index 2012, “Women’s low status in South Asia contributes to children’s poor nutritional outcomes in the region because children’s development and mothers’ well-being are closely linked. Women’s poor nutritional status, low education, and low social status undermine their ability to give birth to well-nourished babies and to adequately feed and care for their children.”

Good nutrition is the key to sustainable economic growth. And social protection is crucial for accelerating hunger reduction. To accelerate hunger reduction, economic growth needs to be accompanied by purposeful and decisive public policies. An improved governance system, based on transparency, participation, accountability, rule of law and human rights, is essential for the effectiveness of such policies.

World Development Report 2013 of the World Bank mentioned, “Many millions more, most of them women, find themselves shut out of the labour force altogether. Looking forward, over the next 15 years an additional 600 million new jobs will be needed to absorb burgeoning working-age populations, mainly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Too often, they are not earning enough to secure a better future for themselves and their children, and at times they are working in unsafe conditions and without the protection of their basic rights. Together, nutrition, health, and education form human skills and abilities that have been powerfully linked to productivity growth and poverty reduction in the medium to longer run. Also, better health brings, directly, higher labour productivity.

Considering the problems — poverty, hunger and malnutrition of the poor women, and children and the poor people as well, I found that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 01: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; 03: Promote gender equality and empower women; 04: reducing child mortality; and 05: improve maternal health — are interlinked. According to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report of 2012, “The goal of gender equality remains unfulfilled, with broad negative consequences, given that achieving the MDGs depends so much on women’s empowerment and equal access by women to education, work, health care and decision-making.” So, let us come forward to turn these challenges ahead into opportunities. We believe that together we can make a change. Therefore, feed the hunger to reduce their anger and to prevent unrest. Because hungry people are angry people.

Parvez Babul
Journalist, columnist and author