Men often have priority when it comes to food: they may eat before everyone else and enjoy the most nutritious food. Women and children can be left with smaller portions and less nutritious meals. This exposes women and girls to a range of harmful physical and emotional health outcomes. Malnutrition has intergenerational consequences because undernourished women give birth to low birth-weight babies. Such children can face cognitive and other limitations all their lives, making it difficult to escape from poverty. When women face food discrimination on a national scale, the human capital of the nation is put at risk.
Integrating men in nutrition initiatives helps turn this situation around. By virtue of their power and privilege, men are in a prime position to tackle malnutrition in their own homes and in the broader community. In many households and communities, men make key decisions about what to grow and which animals to raise. They often decide what to sell, how much to store, and what foods to buy. However, many initiatives target women and girls, and ignore men. Women may learn a lot from courses on good nutrition, but excluding men means that women may not be able to act on their improved knowledge. Men may feel angry because their own nutritional needs are ignored.
In this note we discuss lessons elicited through discussions with staff from Men for Gender Equality Now (MEGEN) in Kenya; the Zambia National Men’s Network (ZNMN); the National Association of Farmers in Malawi (NASFAM); CARE in Benin; GIZ and BRAC in Bangladesh; and USAID in Guatemala, Zimbabwe, and Kyrgyzstan. All boxed case studies are drawn from these discussions.