Harshita Dilawri, Founder, Know Your Nutrients

With over 12 years of experience in Health, Nutrition, and Diabetic Education, Harshita possesses a great zest and zeal to help people maintain and attain their good health by natural and day to day food. She is a passionate nutritionist, diabetic educator, and a metabolic balance coach with a background in both therapeutic nutrition and food science. Being a life member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Diabetic Association, she keeps updating the new diet and concepts about Nutrition. Having international work experience in Denmark she can work more closely into not just local Indian diets but international diets too.

New year, new beginnings but same old community problems! It’s high time that we women take charge of our own health AND empower each other in the same context. We all are very well aware that how woman empowerment is not only important but necessary for it’s own sake. It’s a well-known fact that the health of a woman has a high impact on the development of the family and society. There are several studies based on the health of women especially in our rural areas where it’s seen that they really neglect their health just because they have to take care of their family and that’s their priority.

Did you know that MDG – Millennium Development Goals aims to promote gender equality and empower women through the elimination of gender disparity in social and health context? But the question here arises will it really happen or even if it happens will it be for the good? The answer here is still not known but we are really struggling to get the answer mainly in view of the health sector. However, it’s crucial to know that if improving nutrition is a goal of interventions like agriculture or medical or any other domain, it’s crucial to understand how to identify and address the constraints women face in multiple domains.

As rightly said by Jawaharlal Nehru that, you can tell the condition of the nation by looking at the status of women. This clearly says it all, women’s empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all. When women are empowered, whole families benefit, and these benefits often have ripple effects to future generations. But the study of women’s empowerment has raised a lot of concerns and issues that are associated with other demographic and health outcomes. The WHO constitution states: “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic and social condition.” A major obstacle to enjoying the right to health is being born female.

We define nutritional empowerment as the process by which individuals acquire the capacity to be well-fed and healthy. This process entails access to and control in the context of health. Things like knowledge of practices around water and sanitation, endemic and epidemic/ communicable diseases. Women from both urban and rural sectors should be aware of disease transmission and treatment focusing on diseases that have strong links with nutrition like diarrhea, malaria, and TB.

There are three main domains relevant to nutritional empowerment – food, health, and institutions. Every International Women’s Day it’s recognized that the role of nutrition really plays a role in achieving gender equality. Time and again it’s seen that malnutrition is one of the most persistent barriers to women’s empowerment. Such inequalities in nutritional access and opportunity compound the negative and cyclical effects of poverty and undercut development initiatives before they have a chance to succeed.

There are several examples where it’s seen that how poor nutrition in women can result in deficiencies, which can be taken care of nutritional interventions for e.g. in schools, young girls are given Iron-Folic acid supplements to combat anemia. This further can help them to empower each other how nutrition can really help in daily activity and bodily functions.

When the community expands out, we all prioritize proper nutrition for our women

When we prioritize proper nutrition for girls and young women, we truly lay the groundwork for them to grow, learn, earn and lead. Well-nourished girls are better able to go to school and get an education, more productive and have stronger immune systems. By investing in nutrition, societies become more sustainable and equal — a point most starkly reflected by the fact that 12 of the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are directly related to advancements in nutrition.

There’s nothing new to know that women’s empowerment and equality is a fundamental human right and critical to achieving development objectives, including health. Today, women are coming up and participating in political situations, controlling resources including land hence access to employment and education are crucial for promoting sustainable development. Needless to say, that there are numerous pathways by which greater gender equality can lead to improvements in health and quality of life for women and their family members but it’s sad that much is said and known, and less work is done for the same.

We must understand that a woman can actually empower another woman, as a mother, wife, and daughter, because they are likely to access health services and have control over health resources, and less likely to suffer domestic violence. These mothers who know how to empower and be empowered are more likely to survive, receive better childcare at home and receive health care when they need it. At the same time, improved health outcomes for women can help to strengthen their own agency and empowerment.

Healthy women are more able to actively participate in society and market and take collective action to advance their own interests. They are likely to have greater bargaining power and control over resources within the household. Therefore, collaborative action between gender and health can help maximize the impact of gender policies on health and vice versa.

Of all the factors to empower a woman, health is the most needed yet ignored attribute. Though much work in terms of policies is done already, still constant reinforcement is needed for both women and the policymaker. Till today, where much of nutrition education is already been imparted, we can still see a lot of issues like – Gender-based differences in power and resource-access have affected the quality of life of the women, including its health. Second would be maternal undernutrition or malnutrition in India, measured by chronic energy deficiency, defined as a body-mass index (BMI) <18.5 kg/m2, affects 47 percent of rural women, then there are hormonal problems for women which are not confined to those involving the sex hormones but also affecting many other glands like thyroid or even UTI, kidney infection, cancers of breast or cervix being very common.

Though measures are already been taken in rural areas and urban slums, people, in general, are not that knowledgeable about their health matters, like the prevailing health issues, how to prevent and treat those, what are the resources available and how and when to utilize these, etc. Many backward ignorances, Socio-economic backwardness, traditions, and superstitions had been acting as a block to progressive thinking including the development of the concept of positive health. Thanks to panchayats and voluntary agencies like mohila mandals and youth clubs can contribute very significantly where the health workers particularly woman are empowering each other.

The bottom line is women’s empowerment is vital to sustainable development and the realization of human rights for all where one woman MUST take care of the other and help them grow in each sphere of life including HEALTH.

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