When is an increase in women's workload good for nutrition?

CARE India has figured out a way to reduce malnutrition by 45% by INCREASING the reported workload for women. Find out how.

At the beginning of the Madhya Pradesh Nutrition Project, men and women both reported that men worked MANY more hours than women because—this just kills me—what women do doesn’t count as real work. By the end of the project, women’s reported workload had gone up, but their actual work had gone down. Men were 43% more likely to be helping women with household chores and taking care of the kids.

Why does this matter? Well, it’s connected to the 45% reduction in severely malnourished children since 2014. More balanced workloads gives families a chance to give their kids a better diet.

This is all part of the Madhya Pradesh Nutrition Project, with the generous support of Cargill ($1.3 million) from 2014 to 2017.

What did we accomplish?

  • Kids are healthier: Kids were 38% more likely to have healthy nutrition at endline than they were at baseline. They were also 23% more likely to have good nutrition than the control group in 2017.
  • Diets improved: Kids were 40% more likely to be exclusively breastfed up to 6 months and 23% more likely to have the right kinds of complimentary feeding than control group kids.
  • Men are more engaged: Husbands are 43% more likely to share household work with their wives than they were when the program started.
  • Women are more empowered: Women are 17% more able to be involved in household decisions than they were in 2014.

How did we get there?

  • Work through partners: The project worked with nutrition volunteers in 300 villages to provide nutritional education as the direct intervention. For the indirect intervention, they worked through Anganwadi workers (government health education staff who visit communities) and local health coordinators to provide services.
  • Test different approaches: The project collected data on the direct intervention (through volunteers), indirect intervention (through the government), and control groups. We saw that the indirect approach was anywhere from half as successful to equally successful as the direct approach, depending on the issue. Both were significantly more impactful than the control group.
  • Change the context of information: Before, women who got health services mostly knew what their child’s weight was, but they had no idea what that meant or why it mattered. Now, they are twice as likely to know about the child’s nutritional status, why that is important, and what they should do about it. Giving the context of “so what” changes the way people react to information.
  • Engage men and boys: The project added a gender dialogue component partway through to talk about men’s roles in nutrition and change the way families interacted to increase impact.

Want to learn more?

You can also check out the project webpage and photo archive.