|Women and Nutrition - Nutrition policy discussion paper No. 6 (UNSSCN, 1990, 186 p.)|
Women, throughout most of the world, have the major responsibility for their families' nutrition. Their own nutrition is often impaired, under the social and biological stresses they face. Developments that improve women's position in society are likely to improve nutrition overall, and are essential for this. Equally, any activities aimed at preventing malnutrition depend substantially on women's activities, indeed on their empowerment. At the same time, more attention must be paid to improving women's own nutritional status - perhaps an under-recognized problem - and many of the necessary technologies are now well known. Finally, it is becoming increasingly clear that protecting women's nutrition, notably during pregnancy and lactation but in fact throughout the life-cycle, is necessary to safeguard the nutrition of infants, children and indeed future generations.
The decade of 1976-85 was designated the United Nations Decade for Women. Following this, within the United Nations system the relevant bodies were encouraged to give heightened consideration to furthering developments favouring women in their own work. The ACC/SCN was requested in May 1986 to regularly include women's issues on its agenda. I requested the Advisory Group on Nutrition to recommend on issues and approaches, with a view to beginning a series of symposia on this topic. The SCN's annual symposium in 1989 was therefore on "Women and Nutrition". With the AGN's advice, this first symposium intended to describe a number of the major issues concerning women's role in nutrition, as well as beginning to highlight nutritional problems of women themselves. The SCN commissioned a background review, which is included as the first paper in this document, by Drs McGuire and Popkin: this introduced the concept of "The Zero Sum Game" to stress the difficult, sometimes impossible balance that many women have to achieve in use of their resources of time, energy and income with social, biological and cultural obligations. The symposium drew on experiences from a number of countries, as reflected in the following five papers. The second discussion on this topic was held at the SCN's Session in February 1990, under the title of Women and Household Food Security; we include here the two papers presented at that time.
The SCN is compiling information on women's nutritional status, based on considerations at the "Women and Nutrition" symposium, and this will be regularly included in the SCN's programme for reporting on the world nutrition situation. The symposium in 1991 is on "Nutrition and Population" with topics concerning breastfeeding, women's nutritional status, and nutrition and family planning programmes; the proceedings will form a further publication in 1991.
We hope that publication of this collection of papers from the SCN meetings will give a useful basis for wider discussion of these issues.