How Father-to-Father Groups Can Lead to Better Nutrition
Gender and nutrition status are connected — activity in Malawi
Community volunteers facilitating a household income and expenditure exercise
with community members ⎮ © GIZ/Anja Schmidt
GIZ’s Food and Nutrition Security Programme aims to improve the nutrition status of pregnant and lactating women as well as that of children aged 6 to 23 months.
A critical factor to achieve this goal is to enable and motivate women and young children to eat diverse food. The enabling part in turn hinges not only on them but requires the engagement of their entire households. Even the community is required to come on board for the efforts to be fruitful.
For this to happen looking at the gender setup is critical and gender-sensitive and gender-specific interventions are incorporated into the work of the Food and Nutrition Security Programme in Malawi.
In short: Gender inequality is an underlying cause of food and nutrition insecurity which leads to malnutrition.
Women as sole housekeepers
In the rural communities of Malawi women are traditionally considered the holders of the home, which means they’re the ones who have to take care of the children and do all the household chores.
Consequently, their time to prepare diverse dishes is very limited, affecting the nutrition status of the households. On top of it, meals eaten at home are often not shared equally. Men as the breadwinners get larger portions than women and children.
In some cases, women are not allowed to slaughter chickens in the absence of a man.
What the programme does
To improve the situation the implementing partner of the Food and Nutrition Security Programme, CARE International, introduced so-called father-to-father groups in Salima district. These are groups of role model fathers in the community who work with men and boys to shift their beliefs and practices that are unfavourable to supporting women with their task to provide optimal nutrition in their households.
The father-to-father groups work hand in hand to encourage other men to abandon stereotypes suggesting that women were inferior to men and their servants. They encourage men to help with household chores to lessen the burden on women and therefore improve nutrition.
“Leaving women to do household chores and taking care of the children is a thing of the past with the coming in of father-to-father groups. Now my family is healthier and happier because as you can see, I don’t have to wait for my wife to cook for me and the children while she is busy doing other things. Other men are still resistant to help their women openly but they are doing it behind closed doors, but what matters is that they are still practicing gender equality,” said Maliko Kalumba from Maganga Group Village Headman in Chimwavi village, who was preparing to cook for his family in broad daylight during one of the monthly monitoring visits in Salima.
Mr Kathumba preparing vegetables to cook for his family
© GIZ/Mercy Kaduya
Father-to-father groups also lead by example. The fathers participate in cooking demonstrations led by men that showcase different foods and teach men how to prepare various kinds of meals in their households. This helps reduce the workload for women and contributes to improving household nutrition.
Men showcasing food cooked in father-to-father groups
© GIZ/Anja Schmidt
On the other hand, the community holds gender dialogues to change deep-rooted community beliefs, norms, practices, and behaviours. Well-trained community volunteers work with both men and women to change their mindset about household roles, responsibilities and decision-making power.
Facilitators use participatory rural appraisal tools that help discover and resolve some of the social norms that have an impact on nutrition. This helps the households to realize the problems they’re having and to develop plans on how they can be addressed to improve nutrition for the entire family.
Anja Schmidt, Technical Advisor Malawi Food and Nutrition Security Programme of the ‘ONE WORLD – No Hunger’ Global Initiative, email@example.com
Mercy Kaduya, Intern in the Food and Nutrition Security Programme