On 17 May 2016, the sixth Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN): In Practice brief “Empowering women and Girls to Improve Nutrition: Building a Sisterhood of Success” was launched at the 2016 Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

As evidence has long suggested, gender inequality can be a cause as well as an effect of hunger and malnutrition. Not surprisingly, higher levels of gender discrimination are associated with higher levels of both acute and chronic undernutrition.

Studies have shown that when women’s incomes rise they tend to invest more in the nutrition, education, and health of their family, causing a ripple effect that can benefit entire communities.

As part of the brief, authors from five SUN Countries contributed accounts of their experiences of gender responsive nutrition actions. Here’s a round up of the lessons they learnt.

Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, mother support groups form a core pillar of national efforts to improve nutrition. Allowing women the space to discuss their problems, identify solutions and take action has led to significant gains. Mother support groups need reinforcement from all relevant sectors and development partners to really maximise opportunities for women to lead on efforts to improve nutrition. This also requires a continuous focus on girls’ education and increasing women’s participation in decision-making processes.


The Government of Tajikistan, recognises the role of women in agriculture in terms of their control over resources and decision-making, as well as their role in improving nutritional outcomes. Tools such as the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index are key to understand and identify the specific ways that programming can be tailored to unlock women’s potential to help improve nutrition. When it comes to involving all the necessary actors, the process of  developing a common results framework provides an important opportunity for gender to be emphasized as one of the main components of a nutrition strategy.


In Malawi, strong policies, comprehensive laws and leadership from the national to household level have led to huge gains in protecting young girls from early marriage and keeping them in school. Capitalising on this progress in order to improve nutrition outcomes requires further investment in trained personnel at the local level as well as training on gender mainstreaming and gender responsive budgeting to ensure that all relevant government ministries understand their role in empowering women.


Zimbabwe’s comprehensive laws and policies set a strong foundation for programmes that empower women.  At the same time, the coming together of donors, civil society, UN agencies and government around a common results framework for improved nutrition has really helped all stakeholders to understand their role in empowering women and  improve nutrition. When it comes to implementation, village health workers, engagement of men and the involvement of community based organisations are key entry points for engaging communities as a central part of the solution to women’s empowerment.


In Senegal, early involvement of women in the fight against malnutrition at the community level is driving the success of the National Scaling up Nutrition Programme. By building on the structures and relationships that exist within communities, women’s participation in activities and uptake of services and interventions that are at required for improving nutrition are most likely to increase.

Find out more and read the full report here.

Photo credit: United States Agency for International Development