This IWD, #InvestInWomen by Closing the Gender Nutrition Gap

Around the world, more than a billion adolescent girls and women suffer from undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and/or anemia. Malnutrition is robbing women of their earnings and energy, adolescent girls of their educational opportunities, and young girls of the chance to grow up to reach their full potential. Without tackling malnutrition, we will never reach gender equality.

The Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit is a global pledging moment that brings together governments, philanthropies, businesses, and NGOs to accelerate progress against malnutrition. The next N4G Summit will take place in early 2025 in Paris, France and will be a critical opportunity to spotlight women and girls’ nutrition.

This International Women’s Day, we are calling on governments and donors to prioritize women and girls’ futures by investing in closing the gender nutrition gap at N4G 2025.

Here are five key nutrition issues threatening women and girls, and some concrete solutions governments and donors can pledge to scale at the next N4G summit:

1. Women and adolescent girls face unequal burdens of micronutrient deficiencies, especially anemia.

Anemia is the number one threat to the long-term health of adolescent girls and afflicts almost one-third of women of reproductive age. Progress against anemia lags other nutrition achievements, and only one country (Guatemala) is on track to meet the globally agreed 2030 target on anemia. Meanwhile, deficiencies in vitamin and mineral status, particularly of folate, iron, vitamin A, and zinc, affect 67% of all women of reproductive age (WRA) worldwide. Micronutrient deficiencies can be life-threatening and cause extreme fatigue and poor concentration, hindering learning potential, educational attainment, and productivity. By scaling interventions that target anemia, we can cure millions of women and girls of this debilitating condition.

    Here are two actions that can help: 

    • Fortify staple foods with essential nutrients to prevent, reduce, and control micronutrient deficiencies at the population level.
    • Supply all pregnant women with multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) with a focus on increasing adherence through improving availability combined with nutrition counseling in ANC services and mid and mass media communications.

    2. Climate change poses a disproportionate threat to women’s nutrition and food security.

    Climate change is increasing extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts, and floods, which impact food quantity, quality, and diversity. These climate shocks will put growing stress on food and nutrition security in the years to come. The food that does grow will be less nutritionally dense, which can lead to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals. Women are most likely to bear the brunt of this climate-related food insecurity. Not only are women more susceptible to micronutrient deficiencies, but women and girls are more likely to reduce their food intake and eat last and least in their households. Additionally, poorer regions and disadvantaged adolescent girls and women already bear the brunt of undernutrition and anemia and will be least equipped to respond to the climate impacts likely to hit many of these same regions the hardest. By investing in strategies to build resilience to climate-related malnutrition, we can mitigate some of these effects.  

      Here are two actions that can help: 

      • Promote long-term, climate-resilient food and nutrition security and protect the livelihoods of woman farmers by developing diverse, climate-resilient crop varieties. Contribute to initiatives like the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) Multi-Donor Fund hosted by IFAD.
      • Expand conditional cash transfers (CCTs) targeted to women to allow for greater flexibility in the face of humanitarian emergencies like natural disasters.

      3. Every year, millions of girls miss out on the opportunity to grow, learn, and earn to their full potential because of malnutrition they experience in early childhood.

        As we strive to address inequities in adult women’s nutrition, we must keep in mind the life-changing impact good nutrition can have on young girls today. Girls who are well-nourished are healthier, more productive, and more likely to finish and excel in school, be economically independent, and have healthy babies. Targeted nutrition interventions are a cost-effective way to give girls today a bright future and boost their chances of overcoming poverty and reaching their educational goals.  

        Here are three actions that can help: 

        • Protect large-scale Vitamin A supplementation to prevent vision problems, illness, and death.
        • Ensure children and their parents have access to quality nutrition counseling to promote dietary diversity and the consumption of animal-sourced foods.
        • Expand access to specialized foods (eg. RUTF and SQ-LNS) to prevent and treat child wasting 

        4. Women who choose to breastfeed often face workplace barriers and lack the support they need to be successful.

        Breastfeeding provides numerous benefits to both mothers and their babies. Breastfeeding gives all children the healthiest start in life and promotes cognitive development and acts as a baby’s first vaccine, providing critical protection from disease and death. It also reduces the burden of childhood and maternal illness, lowering health care costs, creating healthier families, and strengthening the development of nations. Family-friendly workplace policies promote gender equity and women’s economic participation, while strengthening the economy. By giving women the information and space they need to breastfeed successfully, they can be empowered to make an informed choice about how to feed their children.  

        Here are three actions that can help: 

        • Enact and promote adequate paid family leave, including maternity and parental leave, and breastfeeding breaks for women who chose to breastfeed.
        • Support breastfeeding mothers with one-to-one and group breastfeeding counseling.
        • Promote greater male engagement in infant and young child feeding (IYCF) to lessen the care burden for mothers.

        5. Commitments made at large pledging moments often lack accountability mechanisms.  

        Large pledging moments are critical for raising the profile of nutrition interventions, but they can only be truly successful if governments, philanthropies, businesses, and NGOs are held accountable for the commitments they make. This accountability requires commitment makers to invest in clear, quality data on spending, outputs, and outcomes.

        Here are three actions that can help:

        • Invest in strong nutrition data systems that ensure routine collection of data on girls and women to support effective policies and programs and to advocate for nutrition investment across sectors.
        • Improve accountability by tracking how global and national actors are currently investing in nutrition data and information systems.
        • Invest in global nutrition financing tracking system to improve coordination, resource mobilization, and resource allocation and regularly track progress on commitments made in the Nutrition Accountability Framework.